Chaldon Church Bells


Bell in porch, Chaldon Church
Bell in porch, Chaldon Church

This Chaldon History Group talk was a joint event with the Friends of Chaldon Church, and was held on Saturday 13th January in Chaldon Church.

Chaldon Church Bells – a seven century illustrated history

Ted Howard presented a fascinating illustrated talk giving new information from his recent research into the story behind the church’s bells, two ancient and six ‘modern’, and the links between Chaldon and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. One link was through a church warden at Chaldon in the 20th century being a co-owner of the Foundry – Douglas Hughes (1917-1997). Mr Hughes arranged for the plaster cast replica of the St Paul bell to be made after it was stolen in 1970. He also made the altar rails in the church and reconstructed the rood screen in its current position between the south side of the chancel and the Lady chapel.

There were originally two ancient bells, St Peter and St Paul, and they are thought to date from 1250 or even earlier. The bell tower is above the south aisle of the church, meaning that it is likely that the aisle, the tower and the bells are all of the same date and represent a major expansion of the church.  It is also very close to the date of the wall painting c.1170. Chaldon was a tiny place and the puzzle remains as to who was investing such large sums into the church here in that period.

The St Peter bell was stolen sometime in the 18th century. In 1912 the St Paul bell was listed as one of only three 13th century bells remaining in English churches, and it was second oldest in the country.

The  scheme to replace the two bells with a peal of six ‘modern’ bells dates from 1887, and was planned as a celebration of the long reign of Queen Victoria. The process of raising the money and having the bells cast (at the Whitechapel Foundry) and hung in the tiny space of the bell tower (a 6 foot square) took  until 1902.

Seventy people attended the talk, and afterwards were treated to a demonstration of the ringing of the ‘modern’ bells (from 1902) by Pat Johnson.

This was a joint event with the Friends of Chaldon Church, and the proceeds of £416 were given to the Friends for the preservation of the church building.

1894 - St Paul bell in the tower before 1902 new bells

1894 St Paul bell hanging in the tower