Thursday, October 18, 2012
East Bergholt, Suffolk
Postcards from England: 3. Five bells, one cage
Some time back, I posted about an unusual wooden belfry at Brookland in Kent. Here's another unusual way of housing bells, the bell cage in the churchyard at East Bergholt, Suffolk. There was a project to build a stone bell tower on the western end of this church in the 1520s, but for some reason it stalled before the walls had got very high. It is said that Cardinal Wolsey had promised to help with the funding, but he fell from grace before the work was completed. So in 1531 a wooden structure was erected in the churchyard to house the bells, originally, it's said, to the east of the churchyard, although it was moved in the 17th century to a different position, because a neighbour objected to the noise of the bells.
It's a wooden structure, with boarding covering the lower walls and a lattice of wood running around the upper part, so that the sound of the bells can be heard clearly. Inside there is a very sturdy wooden framework on which the five bells are hung. As the bells are housed at ground level, there are no ropes or wheels, and the bells are rung by the ringers pushing the wooden headstocks of the bells. It must be hard work as this is said to be the heaviest ring of five bells in use in England. It's also a highly skilled business, and there is much more information about the bells and how they work here.
The bell cage was originally intended as a temporary measure. No doubt the people of East Bergholt hoped that they would raise money to complete the tower. But they never did, and this wonderful bit of carpentry has proved its worth over more than 480 years.