The tower and bells of
have an interesting history. The first mention of a tower at the
church is in the will of one “Theodoricus de Colonia in 1371 where
he stated that a part of his estate should be “to the use of making
the tower. However, during the rebuild of the church by John Clopton,
finished in 1484, no effort seems to have been made to rebuild the
The Melford Hall estate map of 1613, gives some
idea of what the tower looked like but a report
in 1701 mentions the state of Melford Church Steeple, “part
of which has lately fallen down” . The tower was struck by lightning
in 1710 destroying the tower down to approximately nave roof height,
so whether it was rebuilt between 1701 and 1710 is rather vague.
In 1712, a contract was given to rebuild the
tower and re-hang the bells. The result was a
short stubby plastered tower, enhanced by a tall cupola and
lantern to bring the height of the tower in proportion to the length
of the church. The earliest photographic evidence shows the tower
without the cupola, but it is believed to have been taken down between
1813 and 1832.
In 1861, the PCC decided that more adequate
seating should be provided in the church and the gallery at the base
of the tower from which access to the bell chamber was achieved was
taken down and a new turret built on the north side up to the ringing
chamber. The original staircase running down inside the north east
corner of the tower was then filled with rubble.
In 1897, a committee was formed who appointed
George F Bodley A.R.B. as architect and Messrs Rattee and Kett of
Cambridge as builders to as quoted in Bodley’s report “…to treat
the tower that it should have a character and beauty given to it that
would make it look as if it were part of the old church…..”.
The work was finally completed in October 1903 which is the
tower that is seen today. It is in fact three towers in one !
The first mention of the bells is in a will of
1401, before the major rebuild of the church started, “for the
repair of the bell broken in ringing..”. Then between 1401 and 1515,
there are many wills where money has been left for the reparation of
the bells. The number of bells during that time is unknown, although
in 1547 in the church inventory it states that “In the steple be
five belles and a Sanctus bell”—“Three belles for processions”
– “One bell for processions”.
By 1680, the number of bells had increased to
eight with also a clock. The clock was probably destroyed in the
lightning strike of 1710.
The only surviving bell from 1710 was found over
150 years later in a scrap yard in Long Melford and this now hangs on
the St Catherine’s Church (Mission Room) which was built in 1885.
The inscription on this bell reads “MILES+GRAYE+MADE ME+1672”
referring to Miles Graye of
It appears that although the tower was rebuilt
after the lightning strike of 1710, it took another 34 years to re-hang
the bells. Some of these may have been cast from the remains of the
Only two of the current bells are the original
castings from 1744, namely the treble and the four. The two, six and
the seven were recast in 1924 whereas the
three, five and the tenor(15cwt) were cast
in the mid 1800’s.
From 1898 to 1924, there was no ringing, probably
because of the state of the bells, and it was in 1921 that the PCC
decided it was time to carry out a major overhaul including the
recasting of the two, six and seven. This was completed in October
1924 and was the last major overhaul.
In 2004, the old oak frame which may date back
before 1710, was strengthened by metal cross bracing, but this is not
a long term solution, and plans are afoot to replace the frame and
possibly re-site the ringing chamber.
Long Melford now has a dedicated band of tower
ringers (Approximately 20), most of whom are novices but who are
learning fast, complemented by a team of 12 hand bell ringers who
perform tune ringing for various events. The hand bells originally
cast by Thomas Mears in 1880, have recently been re-furbished at
and are in superb condition.
Tower practice night is Wednesday 1900-2100