For more than five hundred years the bells of All Saints' Church Martock have announced the Sunday services of worship, calling parishioners to our beautiful church, to praise and give thanks. [1] They have often been a resounding start to many marriages and given pleasure in celebrating in our lives, being rung as quarter or full peals on these special occasions. The parish church of All Saints' is thought to be the second largest in Somerset and is built of the beautiful golden stone quarried just three miles to the south at Ham Hill, which is clearly visible from the roof of the tower. The bells are set in a perpendicular tower having wonderful acoustic qualities which would do justice to any fine peal of bells the size and grandeur of Martock's 25cwt. peal of eight (one of the heaviest peals of eight in Somerset).[2]

The present eight bells are the result of the augmentation in 1902 from what was a ring of five, the installation of the extra three bells bringing the peal up to octave strength. [3] John Warner and Sons of London, the bell hanging company, are no longer in business. The 1902 project of augmentation and restoration created the necessity of casting three new bells to front the original five larger bells, of which the number 4 bell had to be recast in 1902 having been previously recast in 1843. The tenor bell was originally cast in 1645 but was found to be cracked in 1870 and was recast by Messrs. Llewellyn & James of Bristol in 1877. The wooden bell frame was replaced with a cast iron installation locally made by Messrs Sibley & Sons of Martock. The wood from the old frame being used in the making of hymn number boards. At that time (1902) the community proved to be very generous, with more than 400 donations ranging from two pence (less than 1p), up to £10. When these donations were added to the then existing fund it enabled the bells to be installed in the new cast iron frame. With the restoration completed on time the bells rang out to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. Later, in 1934, the bells were mounted in ball bearings fitted by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough.

The following article is reprinted from an article in 'The Martock & Long Load Magazine', itself a reprint from 'The Sign', No. 569 of May 1952, by F. Farrant.

"This year (1952) marks the 50th Anniversary of the augmentation of our bells from five to eight. In June, 1902, three new bells were added to the five old ones, completing the full octave, "To the Glory of God, in honour of the Coronation of H.M. King Edward VII". The old five were a mixed lot, that is, they were cast at different dates and by various founders. The Tenor bell was originally cast in 1645 but it was cracked in 1870 and was recast by Messrs. Llewellyn and James of Bristol in 1877. This firm was not noted for good bells and has since gone out of business, but visiting ringers tell us that our bell must have been one of their best.

At one time bells were tuned by chipping with hammer and chisel, but if the founder was fortunate enough to cast a bell to the required note so that it required no tuning it was known as a maiden bell, our 6th is such a bell and is also the oldest in the peal having been cast in 1500 . [4] It has a short Latin inscription which reads "Sancte Gabriel ora pro Nobis". Then number 7 which weighs 20 cwt. was cast in 1657 by Robert Wiseman of Montacute. Number 5 came from the foundry of Robert Austen of Compton Dundon and bears the date 1657 [5]. Number 4 was one of the original bells but was recast in 1843 and again in 1902 and there seems to be no trace of its original founder.

The old five bells were rung more for secular than religious occasions, except for the great Church Festivals they were only chimed for Sunday Services. They were, however, always rung for the Clubs of which there were four. Martock men and women's on Whit-Monday and Tuesday respectively, and the Bower Hinton men and women on the last Tuesday and Wednesday in May. The Flower Show and Sports Committees always ordered the bells as part of their programmes.

For many years a fund was in existence for the purpose of augmenting the peal some day. It was started when the Revd. E.A. Salmon was Vicar and he continued to be the Treasurer for some years after he left Martock, but in 1899 he resigned because of ill health. Concerts and entertainments were held in aid of the fund and the collections on All Saints Day were allocated to it but its growth was very slow.

The 'go' of the bells had deteriorated to such an extent before the augmentation in 1902 that it took 7 or 8 men to ring the bells. Meetings were held to consider the matter. One proposal was to add a new treble to make it a ring of six, but the ringers and the majority of the congregation favoured the full octave and so a public subscription was taken to bring the fund up to the required amount. The work was carried out by Messrs. John Warner & Sons, of London, who cast the new bells and recast the old number 4, so that the four bells are all Warner's bells, all cast in 1902. The new iron frame for the octave was made by Messrs. Sibley & Sons of Martock, and it is interesting to note that the boards in church which are used for putting up the hymn numbers were made by Mr. Sibley from parts of the old bellframe. A competition was held to discover the most suitable lines for inscription on the treble bell and the following was selected:

"I sing the praise of God, the Three in One
And memory of saints, who through the years,
Have offered praise in the glorious House.
Martock, remember when you hear my voice
With those departed you may yet rejoice".

The dedication of the new bells was followed by the re-organisation of the band of ringers, new rules were drawn up, one of which stipulated that they should be members of the Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. In the following January a successful quarterly meeting of the Association was held here and the All Saints ringers were elected members. The new peal was rung for Sunday services on the first Sunday in each month until after the First World War when it was decided to ring for all Sunday services - this being one of the objects of the Diocesan Association. About this time it was also decided to have an annual ringers' outing and, with the exception of the war years, these have continued to the present time. The writer has had the responsibility and privilege of organising some 26 of these outings.

In concluding this short account of the bells of Martock I want to appeal to the young men and women of Martock to come forward and join the band of ringers which, at the moment stands much below strength. Change ringing is a fascinating pastime which can be indulged in from early youth to advanced old age. We have two choir boy probationers who are making good progress and have already become very useful and we are looking forward to having the help of our new Vicar, the Revd. L.E. Walsh, who is a ringer himself, in building up the band to its full strength so that the glorious diapason of sound may go out over the countryside Sunday by Sunday, Feast day by Feast day, as it has done down through more than the last four hundred years.
F. Farrant."

Earlier, in 1935, Prebendary G.W. Saunders (Vicar of Martock, 1917-1951) had written about the bells of All Saints Parish Church Martock in his book 'The Hundred of Martock', as follows:

"There is a fine peal of eight bells:

1. Cast by John Warner & Sons Ltd., London, 1902.

'I sing the Praise of God, the Three in one,
And memory of saints, who through the years,
Have offered praise in this glorious house.
Martock, remember when you hear my voice
With those departed you may yet rejoice'
JOHN HARRISON, Curate, 1888-1896.

These lines were selected out of thirteen competing inscriptions as most suitable to be inscribed on a treble bell. They were signed 'Steam Engine' and, after some difficulty, it was discovered that their author was the Rev. John Harrison, the vicar of Bradsey, previously curate of Martock. He was told that his name would be added to the inscription on the bell, and his acknowledgement was a pen and ink sketch of himself in tall hat, frock coat, large walking stick - posed with one foot on the crown of the bell.

2. Cast by John Warner & Sons, Ltd., London, 1902.

'To the Glory of God and in honour of the Coronation of
H.M. King Edward VII. Three new bells were added,
June, 1902, completing the octave in a new frame by
offertories and over 400 subscriptions varying from 2d. to £10.'

3. Cast by John Warner & Sons, Ltd., London, 1902.

(a) A.P. Wickham, vicar, 1902, names of Curate, Churchwardens and Committee.
(b) Names of ringers incised and painted red.

4. Re-cast by John Warner & Sons, Ltd., London, 1902.

(a) William Adams, Thomas Dight, churchwardens.
(b) At dawn the rustic to his toil I call
To grateful rest when shades of evening fall,
I call to prayer to Martock make it known
Salvation's purchased by the death of one.

This bell had previously been re-cast in 1843, and was then 2ft. 10ins. In circumference and weighed 3cwt. It bore the inscription:
'Mears, London, 1843'

5. "IN . IW 1657". There are crosses with which four or five different kinds are used. They are illustrated in Ellacombe's "Bells of Somerset," fig. 85, 86, 87, 88, 90. The founder was Robert Austen, of Compton Dundon. Diameter 3ft.3ins; weight 11cwt.

6. "SANCTE GARBRIEL ORA PRO NOBIS" in Gothic letters. C. 1500. Diameter, 3ft. 7ins;
weight, 15cwt.

7 . "BEE MEEKE AND LOWLY TO HEARE THE WORDE OF GOD". 1657. Diameter, 3ft. 11ins;
weight, 20cwt.

8. Inscriptions:
(a) My sound and service all and some
Is to invyt for you to come
To serve the Lord, to love your friend,
And to be mindful of yower end.

E.A. SALMON, vicar

(b) Arms of Bristol City. Llewellyn & James, Bristol, 1877.

The old tenor bell had the same four lines, with Thomas Rowe, John Chaffie. Anno Domini, 1645.
It was cracked in 1870 and re-cast in 1877. Diameter, 4ft. 4ins. ; weight , 25cwt. Note, E flat.


The bells were rung on the 5th November, St. Stephen's Day and Christmas Day, payments were made for ringing the 5 o'clock bell (1777), the morning bell (1796), the 7 o'clock bell (1800), the evening bell (1801). In 1745 they were rung "at the joyful news of the defeat of the rebels in the North"; in 1749 "when the Bishop was here"; in 1862 the bell was tolled for the Price Consort.

In 1745 there is a vestry order that the bell ropes are to be paid for and weighed at 5d per lb., and the ringers are not to be allowed to ring more than twice a week unless for some special occasion.

In 1752 it was ordered "that everyone who has the great bell at a funeral rung more than 3 hours shall pay to the organist 1s. per hour, and besides what is usually paid for ringing the same, and whereas there has of late been another evil custom for the Ringers to ring a peal on Sundays when any young person is buried, therefore to prevent it we do order that 2s. 6d. for every such peal on a Sunday be paid to the organist by the ringers."

The Situation in 2007

At the regular Diocesan bell inspection in March 2006 cracks wee discovered in the gudgeon pin to plate welds and it was decided to closely monitor the situation fro any signs of further deterioration. By February 2007 the Parochial Church Council had received reports from four independent Bell Hanging Companies and these shewed that their inspections confirmed our worst fears. There was justifiable concern with the loud noises in the area of the gudgeon plates - this being the pivotal point at which the bells oscillates; the pin to plate retention welds which make them a fixed assembly, was no longer moving as one. The gudgeon pins, which extend and rotate into double row bearings, although well-lubricated, had become noisy, emitting serious rumbling sounds from the uneven running. Indeed, the backlash and fretting between the parts was now making it increasingly difficult to ring the bells concerned with any accuracy and had also put additional stress on the bell installation of 1902. Were a gudgeon pin to have completely failed the bell in question would have fallen to the floor of the bell chamber with serious consequences for it and its fittings and also, of course, for the bell ringers. As a consequence of all this the bells ceased to ring on 1st March 2007. Regrettably this wonderful peal will have to remain silent until the problems are fixed.

The Scope of the Bells Restoration Project

With the chance of a complete restoration we will, hopefully, be allowed to have the peal of eight bells re-tuned to bring them up to a higher standard as a musical instrument. The three oldest bells, dated respectively, c1500, 1614, and 1657, are all listed as being worthy of conservation and will determine the amount of improvement that can be achieved by computerise controlled tuning and, along with the 1877 recast 25cwt tenor, they were all made with cast-in crown staples - the staple being the part from which the clapper hangs. The staple was made of wrought iron and the bell, being bronze, have a differential in their rate of thermal expansion and contraction. This, combined with generations of corrosion, has to be totally removed, as they are a major cause of the older bells cracking.

Clapper Replacement: For each of the bells a new malleable iron clapper will be made and fitted with a bush surrounded by resilient neoprene rubber and mounted on a stainless steel hinge pin of the independent crown staple separated from the bells crown by a moulded insulation pad.

Headstocks & Fitments: Replacement of the bulky Elm headstocks with a new prefabricated cast iron or steel type will lift the centrifugal point balance thereby placing them in a much easier position for ringing, with the added bonus of economy of effort for the ringers.

Wheels: The large wheels will be replaced by a size more fitting the modern installation, assembly of which consists of oak spokes, ash soles and chestnut shrouds, all secured by stainless steel bolts, to avoid the possibility of future corrosion.

Stays & Sliders: Straight Ash stays will replace the old bulky knee shaped ones and the new steamed shaped sliders will be retained in position by steel pivot pins to stop them rising and maintain their correct engagement with new hardwood running boards.

The Frame: De-scaling of the iron frame and its retightening will be followed by painting with heavy zinc rich primer, followed by at least two coats of top-quality machinery enamel.

Building Works: The top red brick section of the redundant chimney which passes through the ringing room and traverses the south window to block out natural light and continues through the bell chamber to the roof, will be removed. Bricks will be reclaimed for re-sale.

Bell Entry & Exit Hatchways: Unfortunately there are none at present, the bells on past installations having been sealed in, overlooking the need of removal for repairs. Hatchways have to be cut, one in each of the rooms of the floors of the ringing room and the bell chamber, both having to be positioned as best fits within the ceiling pattern and structures of the present floors. This work will involve the use of temporary scaffolding constructed within the lower tower.


Saturday 20th October in All Saints Parish Church saw the official launch of the fundraising for the Bells Restoration Project. The aim is to raise £125,000 to ensure that all the work detailed above is
achieved. You may wish to contribute towards the cost of one of the major parts of the new installation, or consider a family or group sponsorship of any of those listed below:

*£390 for the clapper and crown staple.
*£770 will buy a wheel.
*£110 to replace a pulley.
*£690 to replace a headstock.
*£220 to install new bearings.
*£630 to retune a bell.
*£110 the cost of each rope.

Bells have now been restored !

Appendix I


The use of bells in churches is generally ascribed to Paulinus, bishop of Nola, a small town in Campania, Italy, as early as 400 A.D. Their use spread rapidly as they were useful for summoning the faithful to the services, but could also be used whenever danger threatened. Their use was sanctioned in 604 A.D. by Pope Sabinian, and a ceremony for blessing them was established a little later. Originally small bells were used, probably similar to the handbells in use today. It is thought that the first bells to be rung in the West Country churches can be accredited to St. Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury from 945 A.D., and later Archbishop of Canterbury. The first Saxon churches were built of wood but, gradually they began to build their more important churches of stone and there are many Saxon churches still in existence. Very large bells, for installing in church towers, were probably not in common use until the eleventh century. Many early church towers were probably built for defensive purposes although we do know that some were built to house bells and during the early middle ages the shape of these bells evolved until by the 15th century the shape and proportions were very much as we know them today. A considerable number of bells from the 15th century survive and many of them are wonderful examples of the craft of the early bell founders.

The Reformation of the 16th century brought about an end to most bellfounding in England and the foundries which later began to develop demonstrate that the skills of the medieval craftsmen had largely been lost. Most post-reformation foundries produced bells which, by comparison with their medieval counterparts, are crudely moulded and often of dubious tonal quality. But gradually the quality of bellfounding improved until, by the end of the nineteenth century, accurate tuning of the bells had been developed. Today bells made in England are generally made with all their principal harmonics or partial tones in a proper musical relationship, having been accurately tuned using the latest technology. This has resulted in the installation of many beautiful chimes of bells, varying in number from eight to twelve or fourteen, so arranged that the notes of the musical scale may be sounded upon them. In the parish churches of England it has been the custom to ring these bells in a harmonious peal, in which all are rung at the same time, resulting in an enormous volume of sound which can be heard all over the parish.

Appendix II

Summary of the characteristics of the bells of All Saints' Parish Church, Martock:

Bell Diameter Weight Note Date Founder
Tenor 52 1/2 ins
1308 mm
25 3/4 cwt.
1230 Kg
D 1877 Llewellin & James, Bristol
Seventh 47 ins.
1186 mm
17 1/2 cwt
940 Kg
E 1614 Robert Wiseman, Montacute
Sixth 43 ins.
1083 mm.
13 3/4 cwt
740 Kg
F# 16th C Unknown Dorset Founder
Fifth 39 1/2 ins.
1000 mm.
10 1/2 cwt.
560 Kg
G 1657 Robert Austen, Compton Dundon
Fourth 36 3/4 ins.
927 mm.
8 1/4 cwt.
445 Kg
A 1902 John Warner, London
Third 34 1/4 ins.
861 mm.
7 3/4 cwt.
380 Kg
B 1902 John Warner, London
Second 32 1/2 ins
813 mm.
7 1/4 cwt
340 Kg
C# 1902 John Warner, London
Treble 31 ins.
783 mm.
6 1/4 cwt.
320 Kg
D 1902 John Warner, London

Note: Bells 5, 6 and 7 are listed by the Council for the Care of Churches (CCC) as being worthy of preservation, in the Schedule of Bells for Preservation, Diocese of Bath & Wells, revision date 26th June 1993.

[1] See Appendix I.
[2] The weight of a peal is calculated by reference to the weight of the tenor bell and not to the total weight of all eight bells.
[3] See Appendix II.
[4] The exact date is not known but it was certainly cast sometime on the 16th Century.
[5] This date is incorrect, it should be 1614.