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The Bells of St Marys

Their Inscriptions and Weights. 

Treble We who are now six Bells were for a long time only five, I came last and celebrate again with pleasant tongue, here whilst I hang, the happy Day. Aucland Colvin 1901. 5 cwt I qr 4 lbs 
2nd 1663 John Darbie made me R.D.H.E.W.F. 4 cwt 3 qrs 20 lbs 
3rd Quaesumus Andrea Famulorum Suscipe Vota (We pray thee, Andrew, receive the vows of thy servants) 5 cwt I qr 
4th 1610 Miles Grays made me. 5 cwt 3 qrs 11 lbs 
5th Petrus Ad Eterne Ducat Nos Pascua Vite (May Peter lead us to the pastures of eternal life) 8 cwt 3 qrs Tenor 1663 John Darbie made me. 11 cwt 16 lbs 


As Lords of the Manor, successive Dukes of Norfolk built up our beautiful church over the remains of a still older one. The side windows of the chancel date from about 1320, and the main part of the tower itself from 1350. When buttresses were added about 1510 one of the stone inscriptions tell us that the tower had been built by Thomas Edouard, who was presumably the second duke. 

The third Duke, John de Mowbray, is said to have built Earl Soham Lodge. The fourth duke is held to have rebuilt Framlingham church and it was presumably he who gave the order for the founding of the 3rd and 5th of our present peal of bells, at the same time as the nave was built. 

These two were cast at Robert Brazyer's Norwich foundry between 1460 and 1470. He may have given two more, for in 1553 the Commissioners left at "Some Comitis in Lowes Hundred: Great Bells iiii". The prayer to St Andrew on the 3rd, and the shield with the cross of St Andrew above the small west window on the outside of the tower, remind us that until 1840 the dedication of the church was always ascribed to St Andrew. 

In view of the fact that we have been repeatedly warned that we must rehang the bells at a cost of some £1,000, the following items from the accounts of churchwardens in the reign of Good Queen Bess may be of interest. 

(Note that the spelling is as in the records - it may help to say the words with a broad Suffolk accent! The letters in italics are pre-decimal currency of £. s. d. - i.e. pounds, shillings and pence. The moving of the bells in 1584 was obviously thirsty work, calling for considerable expenditure on beer!)

Item layd out to John Manlyng for a new bellrope xv d 
to A Mepom for mendyng of the clocks ii s iiii d 
to Kaye for stoken of ye belles ii d 
to my father lawe Dwe for xxxviii lb belle meatell xii s iiii d 
to George Fellepes for xlii lb of belle meatell 5 s 
for half a hundred of belle meatell at Woodebrege xviii s 
at Epsweche for 4X & iii lbs xxi s 
To Wade of Esten for helpyng of the bell man ii s 
Payde to hayward for helpyn of John bell man v s viii d 
To John palle for hys work £ iii 

William Harman chyrchwarden in anno 1576 
Item layd oute to John ye Smythe for ye bellys i d 
John ye smythe for spyles for ye bellys ii d 
to ye ringers on ye coronacion day xvi d 

Payd to Thomas haywarde wytt for the ringers on the crownenacyion days xii d 

Accounts of Nicolas Deve churchwarden 1584 
Payd for Spyles for the belles i d 
Payd for mending the great bell knepele xx d 
Payd for irons and nayles & ii Stapels vi d 
Payd for mending the lesser bell Knepell vi d 
Payd for nayles and moost the spiles ii d 
Payd at Frammingame for bere at the feching home of the belles iii d 
Payd the same day agayne when they came home for bere ii d 
Payd to Wolfe's wife agayne for bere at the taking downe and waying of the same bells ix d 
Payd to arter Cursp of Frammingam for hanging of the belles vi s vii d 

Payd for the bell kneapell xiii s viii d 

(Thomas Folkes one of the church wardens of the towne of Earl Soham) 
Payd for grease for the belles i d 
(the account of Herry Thrower one of the churchwardens...) 
for a bele rope ii s vi d 
to blowers for a lute strynge for the clocke viii d 
It. payed to John haywards the xxxi days of march for a pese for the beall rope xi d 
for mender the baldrecke for the bealles iii d 
to harmies for a Key and Seting on a locke of the stepell dore xii d 
for half a calf skene to mend the bealles ropes v d 
to the commissore for oure belles indented iiii d 
for maker of the deyell for the clocke xiii s iiii d 
for a rope for ye clocke iiii d 

During this period there were other items such as 'xviii s payd for vi bushils of wheate for the quene.", three firkings of butter to Woodbridge for the victualling of "her Majatis navy", butter, claves or kine for her use, the equipping of a soldier for her wars, the provision of swords, dagards, collivers, bows and arrows. Also help for "the maymed solgers", "for trayning of the solgers", and help in kind to poor people and children. A stranger had to be "carted out of the parish", or a man or a "woman to jayle" The glazing of the church had to be repaired repeatedly, and sometimes its "Leade". 

Miles Graye of Colchester, who flourished between 1600 and 1630, made Bell no 4. His most famous bell is the Lavenham Tenor, which ringers say may be the finest in the kingdom. Ours was made the same year as the bell in St Mary le Tower, Ipswich. 

Bells Nos. 2 and 5 were made by John Darbie, an Ipswich founder who flourished round the time of the Great Fire of London, 1660. 

They were rehung in 1898 and a sixth given by Sir Aucland Colvin of the ICS who also gave the East window in memory of his father who was governor of Bengal. Sir Aucland's face and that of Canon Abbay are featured as gargoyles outside the window. 

The first peal of the six bells was a Doubles of 5040 changes rung with deeply muffled bells on the day of the funeral of Queen Victoria. A Minor of the same number was rung similarly for the funeral of Edward VII. Altogether the feat was accomplished twelve times by 1912, the leader on most occasions being Mr. WG Crickmer who rang for over 50 years.