ST BARTHOLOMEW'S , TONG

The Tong Bells

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St Bartholomew's

The Bells of Tong Church

There are two bells in the tower at Tong which date from the fifteenth century, the tenor , 1451 and the Sanctus bell 1467. This last was rung at Mass when the elements of bread and wine were consecrated on the altar. Many churches still continue this practice, though it is silent at Tong . It was given by Sir William Vernon .

Lowering the Great Bell

Ring and Repair

Not counting the Sanctus bell, there is a peal of 6, rung from the floor of the church which demands some experience as the draught is very long and the floor sloping. Below the six is The Great Bell for which Henry Vernon had the tower altered. It was cast in 1518 and originally weighed 2 tons 18 hundredweight and was 6 yards round. There is a legend that Sir Henry was once benighted in the immense forest of Brewood, but he heard the bells of Tong and followed their sound, thus arriving safely home. The Great Bell was damaged in the Civil War as the village was the scene of a set-to between the Roundheads and Cavaliers ( 1635) - as evidenced by the cannon ball marks on the church and the 12-pound granite cannon ball in the vestry. It wasn’t re-cast till 1720. All of its vicissitudes are written on the bell itself in Latin.

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The Great Bell

Awaiting Repair

On Ash Wednesday 1848 the bell cracked and spent many silent years until a great restoration in 1892 when it was somewhat reduced in size and now only weighs 2½ tons. It was brought down once more in 1950 and then 2020. There is the means to remove the floor just above the central altar so that it can be lowered with only an inch or two to spare. In 2020 it took 40 minutes to bring it down after much preparatory work - quite a skilled operation, but because of the outbreak of Covid 19 in 2020, it had to remain on the floor of the church for the three months lockdown. It was eventually removed and taken to Taylors Bell Foundry in Loughborough for the fitting of a cast iron headstock which was recommended instead of a wooden one. It is hoped that this work will prepare it for another half century or so.

The Bell Tower

When the Bells Toll

We have recently had the stability of the tower checked because The Great Bell is swung like other church bells whereas some other large bells are just struck with the clapper, so don’t actually move. The central tower, which is unusual, helps with stability and the architect gives us a good report. However in 1892, the Church Wardens were anxious about the size and weight of the Great Bell so they decreed that it could only be rung or tolled on certain occasions and those rules , written for all to see are still adhered to.

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