The Church Bells

Recently (2016-17) a group of villagers have been training as bell-ringers, so this seems a good time to include the story and photos of the bells and bell-ringers on our new webpage.

 In 2014, Ian Perry, who goes up to the bell-tower about twice a week to wind up the church clock, wrote the following for the ‘Tilney All Saints Parish Church, A NEW HISTORY.’

Tilney All Saints' church has a particularly fine peal of six bells, and ringers come from near and far to enjoy them.  They are hung on a medieval bell frame described by a medieval timber specialist as ‘superb.’

The bells were silent for several years in the twentieth century, as the frame was moving within the tower when the bells were rung, and this threatened to damage the tower.  Plans were formed to replace the frame with a new steel one, but when the timber specialist inspected the existing frame he said it must not be replaced as it was among the finest he had seen and was made of earlier, recycled, ship's timbers.  He advised a simple remedy of timber wedges to secure the frame in the tower.  Since then the bells are rung from time to time by teams of visiting ringers as well as for the occasional wedding.

The tone of the bells can be enjoyed when the clock strikes the hour, with the hour being struck on the tenor.


The six bells are:BellPs

Plaque in the bell tower

Tenor, 0.827 ton (841 kg) bearing an inscription 'Thomas Norris made mee 1661'.

Five, 0.583 ton (593 kg) Thomas Newman 1731.

Four, 0.423 ton (430 kg) Thomas Gardiner Sudbury 1745.

Three, 0.404 ton (411 kg) Thomas Newman 1720.

Two, 0.269 ton (273 kg) Thomas Gardiner Sudbury 1745.

Treble, 0.243 ton (247 kg) Thomas Gardiner Sudbury 1745.

The Tenor and Five were re-cast by Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel Foundry.

They also tuned the remaining bells and the whole peal was rehung on ball bearings in 1950.

If one inspects the interior of the tower walls, marks can just be seen where the original ringer’ floor would have been.  The most obvious guide is the doorway in the SW corner of the tower opening into mid-air part way between the current ringing floor… and the visible clock floor above.

In 2010, the History Group published another account of the bells which was written in 1994 by Raymond Russell (1932-2009).  This was a tribute to his old school-friend, Eric Emmerson. Both were life-long residents of Tilney All Saints, and the first draft of ‘Eric Emmerson & the Bells of All Saints Tilney’ was read, commented and approved for publication by Ray just a few days before he died.  

Some excerpts are included below.

Bell Ringers 1982 Eric 4th from the leftThroughout his life Eric maintained his interests in both the church organ and the bells, and took over as Captain of the Tower on the death of his uncle, the late Bill Rose.  He visited towers and rang bells throughout East Anglia, the East Midlands and beyond, and his memory was such that he could always recall the routes taken on bell-ringing outings, the churches visited and any special feature about them.  He likewise remembered each tower and each peal of bells.  He was active in his support of the Tilney bell fund which led to certain bells being recast and others quarter-turned and rehung in the early fifties.  More recently he was, at least in part, responsible for the establishment of a new bell fund with a view to more essential work being carried out.  He was likewise keen in wanting to pass on his knowledge of campanology to others.

In 1982 Eric was interviewed by Wally Webb in the weekly BBC Radio Norfolk programme ‘Village Voices’, and was asked about the church bells, and his replies are worth repeating:

Ten years ago we had to stop ringing the bells due to bad cracking in the tower.  We had a gentleman from Cambridge who came over, a Mr Brian Threlfall, and said to the ringers it would be very dangerous to ring the bells till something was done about the tower.  This was roughly 1972.  Then we rang them again, just once, for the wedding of our former vicar and that was easter 1973.  After that we hadn’t rung them till January this year….

EricEbt1982 300The thing was when this Mr Threlfell went up into the tower there was a vertical crack. There’s a window used to lead out onto the roof, years ago, and there was a vertical crack going up toward the bells and that was opening and shutting like – he put his hands sideways and it was a very frightening experience. So then we had to stop ringing them, you see. Then nothing was done until we got down to the restoration of the tower. I’m determined that the bells will be rung and put in good order in my lifetime. That’s what I want to try and do you see. So last year, middle of the year, we formed a small committee – five of us. We cleaned the tower out completely of all the rubbish and builders’ material, birds’ nests and pigeons’ droppings. We got forty bags of rubbish and we cleaned the bells and oiled the bells and made arrangements with Mr Threlfall and our architect, Mr Peter Foster, and they came over on January 20th, and they got six bell-ringers together. They went up in the tower and over three quarters of an hour they checked everything regarding the movement of the tower when the bells are being rung, and the framework, and all the necessary bits and pieces regarding the bells when moving on the frame.  Eventually they came down and patted me on the shoulder and they said, ‘You can ring your church bells’.

The interview continued:

Wally Webb:  How did you feel then?                                                        

Eric: Well I just couldn’t speak. It really done me you see. We’d achieved something. That’s how I felt.

WW:  And that’s it for the future.

Eric: We’re now ringing the bells… two or three times every month, and a practice night every week.  Now we’re going to launch an appeal, and the rough cost is £15,000 to re-hang the bells and new fittings.  I hope we’ll achieve that. (Bells ringing).

In 1982 the bells were rung for the first time in nine years, and when Eric died he left half his legacy for the church bells’ maintenance.

CSpicBellringers 300Ray Russell, in the above, mentioned Eric’s uncle, the blacksmith Bill Rose. Ray also contributed his memories of the big smithy for our Revised Edition of ‘Living Memories’ (published 2011).

Bill Rose was an extremely well-known and popular personality whose fame extended miles beyond Tilney.  He had two sisters and a brother. One sister, Irene Emmerson, lived opposite the cobbler’s shop [School Road], and was married to Bill Emmerson and had a son, Eric.  When Bill Rose married Florence Fayers, they lived for a time at the New Inn, Florence keeping house and helping her widowed father who was the landlord. Subsequent to Mr Fayer’s death, Bill and Florence Rose were given the tenancy of 3 Lynn Road where they remained for the rest of their lives.  Bill and Florence Whitear lived next door ... Bill Rose was a hard-working blacksmith who did work for farmers from miles around.  He was also a very keen bell-ringer being Tower Captain for many years at Tilney, but also visiting other towers around the country in the course of ringing tours.  He was also adept at ringing ‘peals’, and was in demand to form different teams of skilled ringers, whenever peals were being attempted. 

A further ‘Living Memory’ about the bells and Bill Rose, was in a letter from the Fenland author, Trevor Bevis.  He has given permission for us to publish on our website.  Thank you Trevor.  But first two photos of the Forge.  This was in Lynn Road, now replaced by a modern home named ‘The Old Forge’.

 BRoldforge 300TheForge 300










TBevisletter 300November 10, 2011

March, Cambs.

Dear Mr & Mrs Mitchell,

A gentleman (have forgotten his name) living at….March, allowed me to read ‘Tilney All Saints in Living Memory.’

Having written a number of books about the Fens I take this opportunity of congratulating you and the Tilney All Saints Local History Group on turning out an interesting account of the village’s past.

I rang the bells of the parish church when a mite younger and am particularly interested in the photo of the blacksmith William (Bill) Rose, a former Captain at All Saints tower.  It brings many memories to mind.

A keen cyclist, on my way to King’s Lynn I would usually stop at Bill’s premises and have a word with him, watching him make horseshoes and other ironwork.  Bill was a very keen bellringer and I often joined him at St. Margaret’s Church, Lynn where we enjoyed practices and occasionally took part in three hours non stop peals.  Also at Wisbech’s 10 bell tower.  With other ringers we enjoyed touring churches in East Anglia and Lincolnshire.

Bill was in his element when ringing tenor bells (the heaviest) and I picture him as I write standing on the box at Wisbech, his immaculate shining boots never moving an inch.  No doubt his care of his footwear derived from service in the First World War.

Generally a quiet man he once told me he drank water from a well in Palestine where Christ had talked to a woman.  The water was so cold, he said, you could bite it.

I rang one or two full peals at All Saints church and Bill rang the tenor bell.  He loved the sonorous tone of the three quarter ton bell.

Bill wanted to be buried as near to the tenor rope as possible and he’s outside the tower with just the wall separating him from the tenor box inside.  Several ringers attended his funeral and we rang handbells over the open grave. Some time ago I pulled up a lot of weed from the grave. Those days were happy times.

[signed} Trevor Bevis

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