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Barrow Bells - History of the Bells, Tower, and Ringers

A condensed history of the bells at St James is available in a printable 'pdf' leaflet...

History tri-fold leaflet: download here
thumbnail of St James' Bells leaflet page1 thumbnail of St James' Bells leaflet page2

Page Contents:

Origin of the Bells
Details of the Bells - size, weight, pitch
Inscriptions on the Bells
Major work to the Bells
Original (1877) Rules for the Ringers
Origin of the St James Society of Change Ringers
Ringing Before and After World War 1
Ringing Before and During World War 2
The Ringers of St James
Ringing Practice Nights
Peal Records

Engraving of St James church and school (approx 1880-1890), viewed from Walney Island over Walney Channel
and its steamers and sailing ships, with the foundry/steelworks of Barrow Hematite Steel Company Limited on the left,
and the graving docks and main part of Barrow on the right hand side.

Origin of the Bells

The following information has been transcribed from pages 10 to 12 of the St James' Church Barrow-in-Furness Belfry Records AD1877:

St James Church was opened on Tuesday May 18, 1869. The Consecration service was performed by the Right Reverend Bishop Anderson, acting for the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, the Honble and Right Rev. S Waldegrave D.D.

Manclarke_web The first Vicar of the parish was
the Revd. Richard Palgrave Manclarke M.A.
of Wadham College Oxford.

His name appears on the inscription on the tenor bell

Originally there was only one Bell in this steeple cast by Mears and Stainbank, weight about 15 cwt note F# - the gift of the Patrons His Grace The Duke of Devonshire K.G. His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry K.G. Lord Frederick Cavendish, Sir James Ramsden K.B. and Henry William Schneider Esquire. This Bell was used for calling the parishioners to public worship, until June 1877

In the early part of the year 1877, a movement was started for obtaining a "peal of bells". The originator was Mr Joseph Hill one of the churchwardens. A meeting called by circular was held in St James Schools on the evening of January 31, under the presidency of the Vicar. A Committee was formed with Mr J. Bobie Little as Treasurer and Mr Rob Bowker as Honorary Secretary and it was unanimously resolved to canvass the town for Subscriptions -

A sufficient sum was collected to warrant the Committee in inviting tenders from the various bell founders in the Kingdom, and after mature consideration it was decided to accept the tender of Mr Thomas Mallaby of Masham to carry out the work.

New Ring of Eight bells. Tenor 44 inches diameter
and Treble 29 inches in the key of F including clappers
70 cwt 1 qr 26 lbs at £7.10 per cwt
£528 :12 :4
New oak frame and fittings, and hanging complete, including carriage of Bells£142 :0 :0
Inscription of 400 letters to order£6 :13 :4

subtotal£677 :5 :8
Less Allowance for old bell£82 :2 :6

£595 :3 :2
Alterations in tower, viz. floor above the bells : making louvres movable
floor between belfry and ringers room
Waddingtons A/C£59 :17 :0
Gradwells A/C£10 :8 :6
£90 :5 :6

Total Cost of Bells£747 :11 :2

Towards this amount a sum of £683.17.7 (transcription note: figure crossed out and figure of £601.15.1 written above) was raised by Subscription and on Dec 31.1879 a balance of £63.13.7 was owing to the Bank.

A bazaar was held in the Town Hall in January 1880 which proved to be a success - enabling the Committee to pay off the debt to the Bank and leaving a balance in hand of £94:11:5

The committee voted out of this balance a sum of £30 to be vested in the names of the Vicar and the Churchwardens as a Belfry Fund; and the remainder amounting to £64:11:5 was given to the Organ Restoration Fund.

The bells were ready for Ringing on the 25th July 1877 (St James' Day) and a special dedication service was held - A party of Change Ringers from Earlsheaton near Dewsbury was engaged and in the course of the day rang a peal of Kent Treble consisting of 5120 changes in 3 hrs. 15 min. Charles Fox acting as Conductor.

Details of the Bells

View or download a printable PDF document giving a short history and details of the bells

The following table summarises the measurements (size & weight) taken immediately after restoration in 2013.
Full details of weights, sizes and pitch/harmonics before and after tuning, are provided on the Bell Restoration Stats page, along with the original (but inaccurate) figures documented in 1877 in the Tower Log Book.

Please go to Major work to the Bells section to find out what has been done to the bells over the years, and especially the restoration of the bells in 2013-2014

St James the Great - Barrow-in-Furness
8 Bells - John Warner & Sons - 1877
Treble22 1/1666.24124227F
222 15/1668.4435244E
324 11/1672.85017262D
426 ¼76.85211284C
528 ½82.5627333Bb
6210 7/1687.5700356A
732 ½97.8920483G
Tenor36 1/16106.812024621F

Latin inscriptions on each bell, and the English translation of the Latin text.

BellLatin TextEnglish Translation
The gift of the vicar in dutiful memory of the departed. Have mercy, Lord. (Priest's Bell)
To the greater glory of God, the gift of matrons and maidens (Ladies Bell)
Sing, ye choirs, a psalm to the Lord, give glory to His praise. (Choir Bell)
4ÆTERNA FAC CUM SANCTIS TUIS IN GLORIA NUMARARIMake us to be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting.
5ADVENIAT REGNUM TUUM FIAT VOLUNTAS TUAThy kingdom come, Thy will be done.
6GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO IN TERRA PAXGlory be to God on high, and on earth peace.
Come ye faithful, worship the Lord in His Holy house.
These bells are for the honour of God and the use of the Church.
In the year of salvation 1877
Richard Palgrave Manclarke A.M. Vicar
Joseph Hill and Robert Bowker, Churchwardens

Major Work and Alterations to The Bells

The bells were re-hung in 1902 according to p61 of the tower log book. A footnote to an extent of Plain Bob Minor (720 changes) on Tuesday December 2nd 1902 declares that it was rung at the "reopening of the bells after being rehung"

The bells were overhauled and re-hung on new ball bearings by Mears & Stainbank in the first quarter of 1924, at a cost of £162. On Saturday 22nd March 1924 the ringers assembled at 2.30pm for the reopening, and assisted by four members from Broughton rang touches of Grandsire Triples and an extent of Plain Bob Minor.

Some clearance work and general repairs were undertaken after the St James Church suffered during an air raid in 1941. See WW2 article for full account from the belfry records.

The bells had to stop ringing completely in 1999 while major restoration work to the fabric of the church was undertaken (Roof, West Window, Louvres and Sub-Spire Platform etc.)
When the work completed, the bells were inspected and were judged to be in such a poor state of repair that they were not safe to ring.

For years the only ringing was the chiming the of the 2nd as a calling bell, or tolling of the tenor, with little prospect of restoring the bells and hearing them all together again.

In 2008, a very keen bellringer called Geoff Pullin questioned why the bells were listed as 'unringable' when visiting his son Simon (who was a naval architect in the shipyard). Revd Stuart and Mrs Evason showed him the terrible state of the bells, and this led to geoff proposing a plan to make basic repairs to make the bells safe to ring (for the short term).

In 2009 the obituary for Jack Bagnall, mentioning the state of the bells, was read by Dennis Ellisdon who learned to ring at St James in late 1950's. Dennis offered to make a substantial donation on condition the bells were fully restored. A steering-committee was set up by the Revd Matthew Peat and PCC, with Geoff at the helm. Proffessional advice was sought, returning the unanimous verdict that the bells should be retuned and hung on new fittings, in a new frame located lower in the tower.

In 2010, Nicholson Engineering Ltd were selected to undertake the specialist bell hanging work, which included the design & fabrication of a new frame, make full set of fittings, dismantle old bells and frame, and install the new.
Leck Construction Ltd were awarded the building work including replacing and constructing new floors, installing weather protection, and responsibility for managing site and subcontractors.
Fundraising commenced in earnest, and good progress was made securing donations and grants.

In January 2013 a grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was submitted for the funding shortfall, and in March a grant of £74,400 was awarded, and we had the green light to begin work!

July to September 2013 - The builders started work on July 15 with scaffold built inside the tower. On August 12, bellhanger Phil Dunnett, with volunteers, started to dismantle the bells and old frame. The bells were sent to London for cleaning, and then on to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in September, where canons were removed, and the bells retuned using a new technique involving removal of bell metal from the outside lip of the bell. This method had been used on individual bells, but Barrow Bells were the first time they have had a complete peal in for tuning in which all the bells were suited to this technique. The improvement is quite remarkable.

The bells continued to Nicholsons Engineering works late in September, and the new frame and all the fixtures and fittings were made, the frame disassembled and sent for galvanising.

In 2014, all the bells and frame were shipped to Barrow arriving in the early hours of Tuesday 7th January 2014.
In the mean time, Leck Construction had completed the weather protection, and replaced belfry floors (old and new), made pockets in wall for frame ends, added new ringing room ceiling and weather protection behind louvres. Volunteers had also been busy and had painted the ringing chamber and new belfry.

Nicholson's bellhanger Phil Dunnett with team of volunteers (Cliff & Keith Newby, Malcolm Eacott, Hugh Pettifer, Alan Dewar) managed to hoist and install the foundation beams and grillage in week 1. Lecks concreted into walls week 2. Phil and volunteers returned in week 3 to hoist and reconstruct the bell frame & bells in the belfry. The final touches, including chimes, were completed by the end of January 2014, ready for the re-dedication on 9th March 2014.

The Original 1877 Rules for the Ringers

The Belfry is a part of God's House, and the conduct of those who assemble there for the purpose of Ringing should be guided by this consideration.

Nothing should be said or done in the Belfry that we should be ashamed to do in the Church itself.

The Ringers should always have in mind that the Bells are dedicated to a sacred object, namely - for the glory of God, and to call together His people for solemn worship.


  1. The Society to consist of members and supernumerary members, all of whom shall subscribe to the following rules:-
  2. That no none (except members) shall be in the Belfry at the time of ringing, without the consent of a member.
  3. The time of meeting shall be from 9.45 to 10.30 a.m., and from 5.45 to 6.30 p.m. on each Sunday during the year.
  4. The Bell Practice shall be on Thursday evening at 7.30 p.m., and at other times as may be agreed upon.
  5. That the Ringers shall attend service in the Church on Sunday after ringing.
  6. Any member not present in the Belfry and ready to commence ringing at the proper time shall be fined 1d.
    If5minutes late= 2d
    10minutes late= 3d
    15minutes late= 4d
    30minutes late= 6d
    If not present at all= 1s 0d
  7. That the fines be not enforced if two clear days' notice, either personally or in writing, be given to the Captain.
  8. Any member fined shall be allowed to appeal to the Society for a remission of the fine, on the ground that the notice was given as early as convenient, and that he had taken every precaution to prevent the Society suffering annoyance by his absence
  9. Any Supernumerary Member summoned to attend any of the meetings, of which he shall have 24 hours clear notice, to be amenable to the foregoing rules and fines, should he not give notice the previous day of his inability to attend.
  10. Any member whose fines shall be three weeks in arrear, shall cease to belong to the Society.
  11. The Ringers shall be entirely under the direction of the Captain, who shall be appointed by the Vicar and Churchwardens.
  12. The Captain (or in his absence the Conductor) to have full power in all matters, and in everything not provided for in the foregoing rules; he shall act in such a manner as he may consider for the benefit of the Society.
  13. No profane or improper language shall be used, or smoking allowed in the Belfry.
  14. That the use of the Bells shall be confined strictly to Church purposes, as was always intended, and shall not be rung for such purposes as Elections, Political Demonstrations etc.
  15. Should the use of the Bells be required to celebrate a Marriage, due notice must be given to the Vicar, who shall at once communicate with the Captain. The Charge for ringing at such marriage not to be less than £2 2s 0d
  16. Strict silence must be maintained during the time the Bells are ringing.
  17. In the event of death occurring amongst any of the Ringers, a muffled Peal shall be rung as a mark of respect toward such Member.
  18. That the name of any one desirous of joining the Society be submitted to a meeting of the Members for approval, and that no one so shall join before he agrees to abide by the rules.

We the undersigned, agreed to the above Rules at a meeting held in the Belfry on Thursday Evening, May 1st 1879 and pledged ourselves to a strict observance of them:-

  James Wilson,   Conductor
  John Mercer
  Robt M Graham
  Saml Brotherton
  John Hague
  Chas N. Pass
  Robt Bowker
  Joseph Hill (Capt.)

Origin of the name of the Society

There does not appear to be an official Society or Guild initially, but just a collection of ringers at the Church of St James, with a set of rules.

On pages 92 to 95 of the St James' Church Barrow-in-Furness Belfry Records AD1877 there is documented the minutes of a meeting on 29th June 1913 and formation of a society of gentlemen to be known as St James Society of Change Ringers.

It was the first time Mr Cushing was appointed an official position (Conductor) and he had previously been mentioned in the Belfry records as early as 22 January 1889. Once elected as conductor he went on to remain as tower captain for many years.

There are some photographs of what is believed to be a church outing to Bolton Abbey in the late 1800's (see Gallery 5) but the photographs do not mention whether they are just the ringers or from the church generally. However a photograph dated 1901 (near the end of Gallery 5) is identified as being the "St James Change Ringers"

Change Ringers 1901_web

Ringing Before and After World War 1

There is a gallery of early photographs of ringers from St James dating back to between the 1930's and 1940's

Ringing Before and During World War 2

The following is a transcript of part of the belfry records talking about the ringing between WW1 and WW2 during WW2:

Ringing carried on, with only very isolated exceptions for both Morning and Evening Services on Sundays throughout the years 11.00 a.m and 6.30 p.m.

In addition to the Great Festivals:- Christmas, Easter and Whitsun were always marked with early morning ringing.

Also the Sunday School Anniversary was a special day. As the little children headed by the Steelworks band marched round the Parish and followed by the choir, clergy and the P.C.C the bells were rung so that the marchers were always within earshot of the Church in whose name they marched.

Also during these years there was seldom an event in the life of the Church which was not marked by some form of ringing, a touch of some length, a quarter peal or attempt at a full peal of 5040.

Harvest Festival Evensong often was marked by a quarter peal.

Moreover ringers were always at hand and ready to give their service, not always perhaps in as great a number as would be wished but usually a request to ringer met with a ready response.

From time to time new members were enrolled sometimes through the Magazine announcements or through the Vicar.

The Rev Llewellyn Jones, Rev R Stannard, and the present Vicar the Rev C E Youngman all helped in this.

In this way Mr John Bagnall and Mr Ronald Wilton, and Mr Percy Smith joined the ringers also our curate Rev Hastie-Smith was learning the art before the great silence was imposed on us.

In addition due to the influx into Barrow of Engineers from other towns coming as they did to the armament works of Vickers-Armstrong (A fore-shadowing of the great menace which was gradually creeping over Europe) several men joined our company already-made so to speak.

Among these ware Mr F.C.Crawley and Mr George Slack.

At the outbreak of war on Sept 3rd 1939 most morning services had an attendance of six ringers and most evening services saw eight ringers in the tower.

The war was announced on Sunday morning of Sept 3rd 1939 just after ringing had finished at about 11.10 a.m and before many weeks had elapsed the belfry windows had to be clacked out, together with the whole of the Church.

This was improvised at first but later the Church ladies sewing party provided properly fitted black-out curtains which the ringers put up on large curtain rods.

The first winter of the war passed in much the same way as peace time winters went. In January - February 1940 the record snowstorm interrupted ringing somewhat.

Mr John Bagnall was married in the Church on June 6 and a 720 of Bob Minor was rung in his honour and of his bride.

This was the last time the bells were rung before the ban on ringing was imposed this took place on June 1940 and from then onwards there was no more ringing on the bells.

In order to preserve the ropes from rot they were taken off the wheels and coiled and stored in the ringing chamber.

Mr Fred C Limb one of our ringers served his term as Churchwarden (people's) during the years 1937 and 1938.

During the latter part of the year 1940 bombing raids were gradually commenced over Barrow.

During the first months of 1941 the bombing raids during the night hours became more frequent and intense and on the night of May 3rd to 4th 1941 at about 1 a.m Sunday Morning there occurred to the Church a calamity as great as had never before occurred in its history.

The searchlights were up within a very few minutes after the warning sounded. The bombs commenced to fall intermingled with the gun fire from the defences round about.

A large parachute land-mine fell at the back of Blake Street exploding with terrific force behind the Blake Street houses opposite the Church. The noise was very deafening and the blast was quite strong over 1200 yards away where I was standing on the opposite side of Walney Channel at North Scale. The debris which was blown in the air took an appreciable time before the noise of their falling died down.

P1190993_web  P1190994_web  P1190997_web

When morning came and the damage could be assessed it was found that the Church could no longer be used for services. The main aisle roof was ripped open at the ridge for its full length. Heavy beams were hanging from the roof ready to drop at the least touch. Every stained glassed window was broken except one window dedicated to Remembrance of those who died in the last war. Most of the slating of the Church roof facing Blake Street was disrupted, the churchyard and street were strewn with the slates.

The belfry too was damaged and the leaded roof above the bells was completely blown down and all fell on the bells. The birds nests which had accumulated for years all fell on the bells so that the whole of the bell chamber appeared to be a mess of twigs, broken timber, and sheet lead and the bells and fittings were buried beneath it all. The ladder up to the weather vane crashing down on top of all.

The task of clearing it all looked very formidable.

Below the bell chamber the intermediate floor was about to fall down owing to the joists all being splintered.

As the bombing continued all the week there was little opportunity to commence salvage for a week or two.

Gradually however as opportunity offered Mr C Cushing commenced the huge task of cleaning up. He continued at the job all summer with occasionally some assistance from myself and Mr F Crawley

Recorded by James E Burles

St James Ringers and the Lancashire Association of Change Ringers (LACR)

The Bells at Barrow were listed in the association annual report as early as 1887-88, and possibly earlier. The LACR was founded in 1876, a year before the peal of bells was installed, but we do not have any reports for the decade from 1877 to 1887. However it is probable that the bells were listed from 1877.

Interestingly no ringers are attributed to Barrow in the LACR reports until 1893.and then appear:
J.Hague, J.Mercer, J.Dancer, P.M.Brown, J.Corlett, W.Corlett, E.Beech, A.Newman, J.Kendal, W.Edgar
In the minutes of the Annual Meeting on page 25 of the 1892-93 LACR Annual Report, there is mention:
"A batch of new members were next admitted into the Association, among them eight from the Cathedral tower, Manchester, and a similar number from Barrow-in-Furness, a distant part of the county, which by way contains some of the most enthusiastic members of the Association."

Mr Chas Cushing was a regular ringer attributed to Lancaster and then Dalton, before eventually being listed as a life performing member registered at Barrow in 1900-01 Report. He went on to ring for 64 years before he died in April 1946 and a plaque was put in the tower in recognition of his service. This was also mentioned on page 9 of the 1945-46 LACR Annual Report.

Initially Barrow-in-Furness belonged within the Preston branch of the LACR. However, on page 27 of the 1904-1905 Annual Report the formation of the Furness and Lake District branch is documented:

During this year the Association has definitely extended its work in and beyond the northern part of the county. In response to a wish expressed by several of our members in the North, a Meeting was held at Kendal on July 1st, to which Ringers from Towers in the Furness District and the adjoining part of Westmoreland were invited. The President and Secretary went to represent the Committee. Canon Trench, vicar of Kendal, took the chair, and the towers of Kendal, Broughton, Bretting, and Ambleside, were represented. It was explained that the Lancashire Association had no wish to trespass beyond its proper borders, but as no Association existed in Westmoreland, we should be glad to welcome as Members ringers in towers adjacent to that part of Lancashire as well as those in that county. As a result of the Meeting it was unanimously resolved that a branch of the Lancashire Association be formed there, and that it be called the Furness and Lake District Branch. Mr William Robinson, of Ambleside, was appointed first Branch Secretary. Several new members were elected.

There is a gallery of early photographs of ringers from St James dating back to between the 1930's and 1940's

St James' Members of LACR
Joined LACRName
1901James Williams
1910Jack Bracewell
1915Miss Buller
1915Miss F.A.Cushing
1915Miss Cross
1920Arthur Stedman
1925William Picthall
1925Fred C.Limb
1926James E.Burles
1926Sidney Hyder
1926Nicholas M.Newby
St James' Members of LACR
Joined LACRName
1934John Bagnall
1935Stephen Birtles
1935Rev. Christopher H.Wheat
1936Fred H.Crawley
1937George Slack
1937Ronald A.Wilton
1944Sydney B.Usher (same as 1920?)
1948Jeffrey Powell
1953Henry Barnes
1953Dennis Howie
1954Peter Tyson
1954Gordon Richins
1954Albert Crawley
1957Miss Marjorie Caldwell
1957Rev. A.F.J.Lofthouse
1957Keith Newby
1958Dennis Ellisdon
1958Miss Carol Rushton
1958Miss Anne McLintock
1959Ronnie Williams
1959Clive D.Lowther
1959Rev. Eric Notman
1960Ronald Monroe
1960G. Alan Metters
1960Alan W.Brooksbank
1961Robert Stuart Fletcher
1961Robert Pegg
1962Miss Mavis Wilson
1962Ronald Jesson
1962Allan Ball
1962Mrs Sarah E.Newby
1964Alan Jones
1964Roy Jones
1964Alan Johnstone
1964Michael Waite
1964Rev. R.J.S.Watson
1964Rev. W.E.Barker
1964Miss Joan Caldwell
1965Ivan G.R.Zobel
1965Alan D.Parrott
1966John Battersby
1966James Simmons
1967Gordon H.Basterfield
1967William A.Caulfield
1967Miss Lynn Bagnall
1967Michael Williams
1967Richard Kirk
1968James Caldwell
St James' Members of LACR
Joined LACRName
1971Rev. D.C.Crook
1972Mrs Muriel Short
1972Jeffrey Turner
1972Alan Ball
1972Stewart Anderson
1974Miss Lesley Roadley
1979James Hamilton
1982James Everett
1982Elizabeth Newby
1987Andrew J.Honey
1990Mrs Louise Nixon
1990J. Andrew Pollock
1991Alan Jones
1994Frazer Smith
1995David Morrall
1996Karin Jones
1997Joanne K.Pollock
2013Brenda Pearce*
2014Andy Painter
2014Jo Sweeney
2015Sue Fryer
2015Ken Parkinson
2015Gwyn Murfet
2015Geoff Holme
2016Clarissa J.E. Caroe
2016Cameron J. Pollock
2016Iwan Cotgreave
2017Jason W. Pollock
2018Ian Wyers
2018Jayden Milby
2019Kyle Harrison
2022Alison Bolt
* Non-Ringing Honorary Life Member.

St James Ringers and the Carlisle Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers (CDGCBR)

St James the Great has been part of the Carlisle Diocese since it's early days. The deanery of Furness and Cartmel (Lancashire) were transferred into the diocese in 1866 and an archdeaconry of Furness formed in 1884. It remained in the civic jurisdiction and boundary of Lancashire until the Local Government Act of 1972 created the county of Cumbria, although many Barrow residents still considered themselves staunch Lancastrians (and there remains some of this sentiment to this day).

A number of the tower members joined the CDGCBR as unattached resident members of the guild in 2017 or earlier, and in January 2018 the tower AGM formally carried a motion unanimously to join the CDGCBR, and was welcomed into the guild at the CDGCBR AGM at Wigton on 21st April 2018.

The tower now has dual affiliation to both LACR and CDGCBR, and in 2018 just two towers are joint members of CDGCBR and LACR with Kirkby Stephen setting the precedent with membership in the Eastern branch of the CDGCBR, while Barrow are now members of the Western Branch. In the Annual Report 2017 the tower is not listed as an affiliated tower, but this will change in the 2018 report (issued in 2019) and thereafter.

St James' Members of CDGCBR
Joined CDGCBRName
pre-2017J Andrew Pollock
2017Clarissa Caroe
2017Iwan Cotgreave
2017Alan Jones
2017Andy Painter
2017Cameron Pollock
2017Jo Sweeney
2018Sue Fryer
2018Gwyn Murfet
2018Ken Parkinson
2018Jason Pollock
2018Ray Marshall
2018Ian Wyers
2018Geoff Holme
2019Jayden Milby
2019Kyle Harrison

Practice Nights

Practice nights have changes through the history of the Barrow bells. Initially on Thursday evenings, until 1900 when it moved to Tuesday evenings, and then to Friday evenings from 1946, and then Monday evenings from 1983 until the tower was closed in 1999 during the major restoration work (church roof, west window, tower and louvres.

From February 2014 when the bells were restored, practice night is Wednesday evening.