Bell History

In 1638 R. Pennington was given an order to cast eight bells, the first peal of eight in the County but when Dunkin visited St Buryan to obtain details for his book “Church Bells of Cornwall” published  in 1878 he found only three bells dated 1638, 1681 and 1738.  We can see from the dates of these bells that there had been at least two “restorations” between 1638 and Dunkin's visit.

Although five bells had disappeared there remained two links with the original eight bells. The second of the three was the old seventh; and the tenor which, although it had been recast in its centenary year of 1738, was noted by Dunkin on the evidence of the  inscription as  “evidently reproduced from an earlier bell

The 1738 recasting of the Tenor was done locally. The Churchwardens accounts for that year lists some 30 items bought in  connection with its recasting, such as bricks, clay, lime and wood. In addition there were journeys recorded to Penzance with horses for the goods by twelve men and eight boys, and in addition there were the important items of lowering the bell, its weighing and casting, its being “rowld” into the tower and the record of the day it was “put up into the tower” with the help of the parishioners; in all a total of £33 19s 11d.

This recasting by Mr Pennington Junior does not seem to have been very satisfactory for there was a so called “flaw” in the casting, said to have  been caused by a “man jumping from a hedge before the metal had cooled” (probably a stone fell into the molten metal).

In 1901 Warners of Cripplesgate, London were given an order to restore the bells and to cast a new tenor which was to be “the heaviest in Cornwall” all paid for by Mr James Hawke Dennis (brother-in-law of the Rector of St Buryan - the Revd. Richard James Martyn).

The treble of the old three was retuned, the other two were recast and  all were then rehung in a  new heavy duty steel frame. The four bells, which became the heaviest peal of four in the world, were dedicated on the 31st July 1901 to the great delight of the parishioners as the  village was festooned with flags and bunting.

After the dedication day, when a band of five men from St Mary’s, Penzance rang a touch of Bob Minimus, the bells were never rung full circle again and soon became unringable.

In 1981 the Rector decided it would be appropriate  to mark the wedding of H.R.H. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer by ringing the treble bell full circle. This would also coincide with the bell’s 300th birthday. Local craftsmen and a neighbouring ringer combined their efforts and the goal was achieved.

In October 1990 Chris Venn moved to the area from London. Having been fascinated with the bells of St Buryan since learning the art of ringing some thirty years previously, he thought “it was about time these unique bells should be ringing again”  After four months work replacing wheels, stays, sliders, pulleys etc. and erecting a large steel  supporting structure under the bell frame, the worlds heaviest peal of four rang out over the village on 16th February 1991, the first time for ninety years.

At the same time a nationwide appeal was launched to raise the necessary £80,000 to rehang, tune and augment the bells to six with the addition of a treble and a heavy Tenor to fulfill the previous benefactors wishes for  St Buryan to have the county’s heaviest bell. A record which was currently held by Truro Cathedral’s Tenor bell of 33cwt 3qtrs 10lbs

The old four rang out for the last time on 14th June 1992. All the work was completed in the tower ready for the arrival of five bells from Whitechapel in October 1992. These were dedicated on 22nd November 1992. In January 1994 the order for the new Tenor bell was placed with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

In a little over 350 years St Buryan has had the first peal of eight bells in Cornwall, the heaviest peal of four in the world, the third heaviest peal of five in the world, and now the heaviest peal of six in the world. The dedication of the tenor bell, St Solomon, took place on Saturday 28th May 1994.

A New Millennium – a New Bell: Our second-hand treble, purchased from Huddersfield, was, as Chris put it, ‘a bit of a bucket’! When the front five bells were installed it blended in O.K. – but when our new two ton tenor was hung the treble lacked a certain amount of breadth. So in January 2001 a new Treble was cast at Whitechapel and hung by local volunteers in February.

This super new bell, the third heaviest treble in the world, has blended in perfectly with the other bells and has given a much richer overall sound to the peal.