Bells

Saltaire United Reformed Church was originally a Congregational Church but became known as a URC church in 1972 when the Congregationalists joined the Presbyterians in England and Wales. This is a brief history of the bells between 1870 and 1941 with an update about the new bells installed in 2003.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BELLS

 

The model village of Saltaire celebrated its 150th anniversary on 20th September 2003, this being calculated from the opening of Sir Titus Salt's mill on his 50th birthday; the church itself was not completed until 1859. It stands in extensive grounds opposite the main mill entrance, and is a major tourist attraction in its own right due to its Italianate architecture. It was also unusual in that bells were installed. Initially two Warner bells sounded the hours in conjunction with the clock, but in 1870 these became numbers 4 and 6 when one recast and three new bells were added and hung for full-circle ringing by William Blews & Sons, gold medal bellfounders, of Birmingham. Despite the grandiose title, Blews' bells were sometimes alleged to contain insufficient tin, which affected the tone adversely. In Saltaire's case one of the new bells had to be either recast or replaced at an early stage, an inauspicious start to what seems to have been a lacklustre career.

 

Saltaire made its first appearance in the Yorkshire Association Of Change Ringers’ (YACR) Annual Report for 1876/77, naming W.E.London as its only member. Its appearances are spasmodic, suggesting that there were not consistent YACR members at that time. London appears again in 1881, along with a Fred Kershaw. In 1884 Alfred Riley is first listed, and he seems to have been the one name associated with the tower almost until the end. It does look as though there was a close association with Shipley St Paul's, and indeed W. E. London appears under Shipley in later editions of the Annual Report. Saltaire frequently does not appear at all, and no record of any YACR meetings there could be found during the time available for research. It does seem that Saltaire was something of a Cinderella tower; most six bell performances in the Bradford district were at Tong.

 

Perhaps the most reliable evidence of Saltaire's unpopularity is the fact that only two peals were ever rung there, and even then appear to have been credited to Shipley in Canon Felstead's records. The first peal was Plain Bob Minor on 8th December 1888, completed in 2 hours and 58 minutes. Now the facts that eighteen years had elapsed since installation, and the ponderous time taken, even allowing for the slower peal speeds of the day, seem to suggest that the bells were not easy to ring. This peal was evidently an exercise in conducting, each inside ringer calling one extent, treble calling two. The second and last peal was on 9th June 1889, again Plain Bob Minor, commencing at 7 a.m. to celebrate Whitsunday Service. Alfred Riley was the conductor.

 

It is not always realised that Salt himself never lived in Saltaire, remaining at Lightcliffe for most of his life. He was responsible too for the only other ring of bells in a Congregational church, this being not surprisingly at Lightcliffe, where six were installed, again in 1870 or 1871, and were quite likely also Blews' products. In both cases the bells were procured by a Mr Potts of Leeds, who had supplied the clocks, although he was apparently unconnected to the well-known clock manufacturer of similar name. Little is known about Lightcliffe bells save that two were sold in 1933 to pay for clock repairs, while the remaining four served as a clock chime until the 1970s. The church is now closed.

 

The bells were rung for the last time to celebrate the signing of the Armistice in 1918, and by 1922 were in a bad way when inspected by Taylors, the Loughborough Bellfounders. They recommended a new frame and fittings, but no action was taken. By the 1930s YACR Reports were listing practice ringing by arrangement with Alfred Riley, which suggests wishful thinking about their condition. By 1936 they had been officially declared unringable. The YACR Report for 1937/38 shows Riley as deceased, and this is the last mention of Saltaire in the annals of the Association. It is likely that interest in the bells died along with their last ringer, and they were removed during the Second World War and sold for scrap for £85.

 

 

Bells on

display before installation

'Jonathan'

the fourth bell

'Jonathan' the fourth bell makes his way up the tower before being installed

Phew! Only

65 steps up to the ringing room

Our ringing room is just above the canopy and the bells are behind the grills in the tower.

The good news is that more recently Saltaire has experienced a remarkable revival, largely due to the late Jonathan Silver who regenerated Salts Mill, and the village is now a World Heritage Tourist Site. The bicentenary celebrations of Sir Titus Salt's birth were celebrated in the village and to mark the event Mrs Maggie Silver of the Salt's Foundation Trust donated a new ring of bells for the village and the Church. The survey of the tower showed that the original bellframe was totally inadequate and the dynamic loading during ringing would have been excessive. Happily good design and modern hanging techniques meant that when the new six bells rang out for a full peal on Saturday 20th September 2003 they heralded a new ringing career in this splendid and historic setting. Later in the day the bells were dedicated during a service of worship.

 

Robert Appleby February 2003 Amended 2009

 

The assistance of Chris Pickford and Dennis Greenwood in compiling this account is gratefully acknowledged.

 

Some facts about the bells

 

The original bells were last rung in 1918 and removed at some time during the second workd war and sold for scrap.

Bell

Weight

Diameter

Cast

1

3 cwt

2 ft 0 ins

1870

2

3.5 cwt

2 ft 2 ins

1870

3

4 cwt

2 ft 3.5 ins

1870

4

4.5 cwt

2 ft 4 ins

1857

5

5.5 cwt

2 ft 7.25 ins

1870

6

7.5 cwt

2 ft 11.5 ins

1857

There are only two United Reformed Churches in England with a peal of bells; Port Sunlight is the other church. The new bells were dedicated on Sunday 21st September 2003.

 

Bell

Weight

Nominal

Note

Diameter

Cast

Founder

Canons

1

1-2-24

 

Bb

19.53"

2003

Eijsbouts

F

2

1-3-24

 

Ab

20.79"

2003

Eijsbouts

F

3

2-1-13

 

Gb

22.40"

2003

Eijsbouts

F

4

2-2-26

 

F

23.58"

2003

Eijsbouts

F

5

3-1-2

 

Eb

25.39

2003

Eijsbouts

F

6

4-0-0

 

Db

27.48

2003

Eijsbouts

F

Each bell has a name and an inscription on it:

Bell

Name

Inscription

1

Mary

Tell out my Soul

2

Peter

To God be the Glory

3

Lydia

May Jesus Christ be praised

4

Jonathan

I know that my Redeemer liveth

5

Martha

Crown Him with many crowns

6

Titus

Sweet is the work my God my King