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The Bell

The tower has only one remaining bell, which was cast by John of Gloucester in about 1354. 

It is inscribed in gothic capitals without any break between the words and with two letters upside down -“Ave Maria Gracia Plena Domins Tecvm” which points to it having been the “Angelus” bell; the one which was and, still is often, rung at 6 a.m., 12 noon and 6 p.m. in memory of the Annunciation and in honour of the Incarnation.

Inscription on the bell at Little Malvern Priory
Inscription on the bell

John of Gloucester

The bell is very similar to the four blank bells at Ely Cathedral, which records show were cast by John of Gloucester during his visit to Ely in 1354. The Ely records show in great detail the materials which were used, including clay, tin, copper and beer, proving that the bell was cast at Ely, and not transported from Gloucester. Most of the other bells in the area reputed to be cast by John of Gloucester (Broadway, Malvern Priory, Stoke Lacy, and Little Dewchurch) are probably not by John of Gloucester, but a successor.

The bell at Little Malvern Priory
The bell at Little Malvern Priory
The 3rd bell at Ely Cathedral - cast 1354
The 3rd bell at Ely Cathedral - cast 1354

The Bell Tower

The base of the tower was rebuilt in the 14th century, and the top stage was added in the 15th. The Nave, and north and south transepts are no longer standing, and the bell hangs in the once central tower, now at the west end. Access is by means of a long vertical ladder (installed 1968) from the organ loft. Previous to this, access to the tower was by means of a long extending ladder to a doorway high in the south wall of the tower, where the void in the roof of the south transept used to be.

The Bell Frame

The frame is an excellent example of a high sided short headed mediaeval frame dating from c1350 for five bells. Four of the five pits are intact, and the remains of the fifth (just visible at the bottom of the photograph) leans against it.

The four intact pits are arranged so that the bells would swing N-S, with the fifth (and partially missing) pit facing E-W. Metal straps have been put across the pits at some point.

Looking east along the frame, the bell rope just visible to the right holds up the remains of the remains of the fifth pit, as seen below. The curved braces are jointed into both the short head and the king post.

The remains of the fifth pit, with just one curved brace left. The other side of this pit is missing completely. Note the different style of jointing between the curved brace and king post only, suggesting that this was a later addition.

Previous to 1969, it hung from its original 14th century headstock in the easternmost pit, this probably being its original position in the tower, where it was clocked by means of a chiming hammer. The headstock and clapper still exist in the belfry, and a photograph of this arrangement is in the back of the church.

In 1552 there were ‘ij small bells whereof on is not our own’, and in 1740, there was ‘1 bell’.

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