The Bells of St. Christopher’s

Prior to restoration in 2011/12 there were four bells plus a service bell which formerly hung in Shellow Bowells church and was installed for stationary

chiming in 1974.  The bells had not been rung on wheels since before WWII, the fittings had much deteriorated, the frame was of poor design and construction; and the bells much indented. In mid 2008 Ian Kerwin and Peter Tottman saw the state of the bells and frame.  Ian, a bell ringer and qualified as a carpenter, and Peter, having an interest in woodworking, conceived of the project to restore the bells.

The restoration project had two key principles – as far as practicable, the work would adopt traditional materials and techniques and, secondly, work would be carried out by the community.  The bells were augmented to a ring if six by the addition of a new treble and the adoption a bell formerly hung in St. Mary’s, Prittlewell as the second.  The original four and the one from St. Mary’s were fully overhauled by Whitechapel Bell Foundry and fitted to new timber headstocks, all retain their canons.  The new bellframe was designed by Whitechapel and constructed in European Oak.  Both frame and the wheels were made by volunteers here in Willingale.  Almost all work in the tower, including the lowering and raising of the bells, was carried by volunteers.

The project exemplifies the strong self-help attitude and community spirit of this parish and the participants enjoyed working together.



The May sun shone, the bells rang out.
No fears here of casting clout.
In majesty, the Tower stood proudly Excited whispers, inside, spoken loudly.

No ordinary day to salute the Team,  Honouring its achievements in high esteem.
We stood, we sang, we suppressed a tear.
We sat, we blessed, anxious to hear.

Pride shone through on the faces of they Whose efforts now on open display.
From now on, we will see them ringing.
On high, they will hear us singing.

Weekly worship and quiet prayer,
Large congregations and smaller fare, Weddings, funerals, baptisms and all
St. Christopher’s bells to summon, enthral

The time had come – the new peal was rung. Heads turned upwards  – praises sung. Emotions ran deeper than we thought At no price whatever could this be bought.

Spontaneous applause heralded the crew. Its skills and devotion so clearly in view. The bells, they beckoned, “Come and try us” Their future secured to enrich and inspire us.
The service over, we went our own way

The visitors and villagers leaving the fray. Smiling, moved and touched to the core – Willingale’s bells ringing, for evermore.

John E. Jewiss – May, 2012

The Volunteers:

Simon BakerDamon KellyPeter Tottman
Bernard BantickVal KellyBrian Watson
Terry BartonDavid KerwinMartin Pasloe
Derek BeavisDenise KerwinNeil Pasloe
Jane CassIan KerwinDavid Piggott
Gemma CrouchmanKatheryn KerwinBrian Rew
John EllisKieran KerwinRev. Vernon Ross
Ray FarnallScott KerwinNigel Stag
Andy FlesherStuart KerwinDavid Stokes
Arthur GatcumIan LawrenceAlan Sweeting
Tom GoodayBill LeeMartin Sweeting
Nigel HolgateMurry LoweMichael Tottman
Chris JacksonChris Murrells
Jane JacksonGeorge Neal

The Funders

The project cost £70,000.  The PCC and the bell ringers express their thanks to all who have supported financially or in kind.

The Heritage Lottery Fund
The Essex Association of Change Ringers
The Keltek Trust
Alan Evans Memorial Trust
Sharpe Trust
All Churches Trust
Personal donations
Local fund raising events
The Supporters, Suppliers, Contractors
Central Council Church Bell Ringers
David Sloman
The Daniel Connal Partnership
F Sweeting and Sons
G E Day Electrical
Gillian Jaggard
Jean Beavis
John Jewiss
Michael Royalton-Kitsch
Stag Joinery
Ward Cole Structural Engineers
Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Willingale Sports and Social Club

The bells were dedicated on the 27 May 2012 and rung to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee on 2 June 2012.

Bell Diameter Weight* Date Founder
Tenor 2’ 11¼” 7-3-9 (398) 1610 William Carter, London
5th 2’ 9⅜” 6-3-15 (350) 1631 Thomas Barlett, London
4th 2’ ”5⅜ 4-3-18 (249) 1867 Mears & Stainbank
3rd 2’ 3¼” 3-3-2 (191) 1794 Thomas Mears I, London
2nd 2’ 2⅜” 4-0-17 (206) 1902 John Warner & Sons,
Treble 2’ 1” 3-2-23 (193) 2011 Whitechapel
Service 2’ 5⅝” 4-3-14 (248) 1634 John Clifton, London

* Hundredweights, quarters, pounds (kgs)

In 2015 the 1634 John Clifton fourth, that was irremediably oddstruck, was replaced by a bell from Christ Church, Bath that was tuned and set up by Matthew Higby.  The 1634 bell is now the service bell.

Download this Bell Ringing Leaflet here