ID PH01_BLS / Elaine Barker

TitleThe Bells of St Stephens, Great Wigborough
AbstractThe Bells of St Stephens, Great Wigborough

St Stephens has two bells although only one is now rung. The older bell was made by itinerant bell founder John Danyell who was founding bells between 1450 and 1470. Medieval bell-founders did not confine themselves to bell-making as their only occupation and were often involved in related trades like metal-ware, and manufacturing of utensils and guns. John Danyell was a vintner and was probably based in London.

He made 90 bells up and down the country from Durham to Lincoln down to Cornwall. He cast five bells for Kings College in Cambridge in 1460 and also four bells for St Botolph's Church in Cambridge.

This 36" Danyell bell in St Stephens is marked in Gothic lettering NOMEN MAGDALENE CAMPANA GERET MELODIE which translated says 'Magdala bell will be making melody'.

In medieval times, to simplify the transporting of the completed bells, a pit was dug in fields close to the church and a furnace was constructed, the bells were then cast, in some communities there is still a 'Bell Field'

The second bell was made in 1622 by a famous bell-founder with a foundry in Colchester, Miles Gray. Living in a house called the Swan with Two Necks near Headgate, three generations of this family made bells throughout the country. The inscription on this 38" bell reads MILES GRAY MADE ME 1622. No longer rung it was reported as being cracked as long ago as 1905 and is in need of restoration.

Elaine Barker

AuthorElaine Barker
SourceMersea Museum
IDPH01_BLS