The bells of St Peter’s are rung regularly to call people to worship and for weddings and other special occasions. Some notable events, such as the arrival or departure of a new Vicar, are celebrated with a special Peal of the bells and these events are recorded on the Peal Boards which hang in the ringing chamber.
New ringers welcome
St Peter’s has a ring of 8 bells. The bell ringers meet to practice at St Peter’s on Mondays from 7:00 to 8:30pm. New ringers are most welcome to come along and learn how to ring. To find out more please contact: – Bellringing Captain: Sarat White – to contact please use the email address above or contact the Church Office.
The History of the Bells of St Peter-in-Thanet Church
St Peter’s church has had bells for over 600 years, but it is not known exactly when they were first installed or how many bells there were. A single bell was in the south east corner of the church and it is said that there are signs of wear caused by a bell rope on the wall of the present Lady Chapel. St Peter’s present tower was built in the 15th century at the north west corner of the church, but nothing is known about the bells until the mid-eighteenth century when the parish registers record that the bells were recast from 5 to 6 between 1754 and 1757
John Mockett records in his Journal some work done on the bells both during his time as churchwarden at the end of the 18th century and when his father Elijah was churchwarden some years earlier. In 1777 the fourth bell was recast and put up when Elijah Mockett and John Stainer were Churchwardens. In 1798, John Mockett tells us “The parishioners having appointed Mr Thomas Paine and myself churchwardens for St Peters, we put up a new tenor bell, in consequence of the former having laid, for some years, useless.” The churchwardens’ accounts tell us that the bell was transported by boat to and from Mears’ Whitechapel Foundry and the bill for the recasting was £32.15s.9d.
A few years later two entries in the Journal record occasions when the bells rang out: In 1809 “In consequence of his Majesty King George the Third having reigned for fifty years, a Royal Jubilee was observed throughout the kingdom, on the 25th day of October. The celebration commenced by a merry peal on the bells and the festivities of the day were hailed with the most heartfelt gratifications.” On 2nd July 1814, in celebration of Peace “the morning was ushered in by a merry peal from the church bells.”
The fourth bell was recast at Whitechapel in 1822, but the next major works on the bells took place in 1887 to mark the Jubilee Year of Queen Victoria. The bells were in such bad order that there was no ringing, just chiming. By public subscription, three bells (3, 5 and 6) were recast at Whitechapel Foundry and the bells were rehung in a new frame made by Samuel Snelling of Sittingbourne, a well-known Kent bellhanger of the time. Although the frame was made for 8 bells, it was only in 1892 that two new treble bells were added to make the present ring of 8. In October of that year, the first Peal* was rung. This is recorded on one of the Peal Boards which hang in the ringing chamber.
In 1940 the bells were silenced and reserved to be used as a warning of enemy landing, but on 15th November 1942, they were rung as a token of rejoicing for the 8th Army’s victory in Egypt.
The most recent major work on the bells was retuning and rehanging in a strengthened frame in 1975. The tenor bell, after tuning, now weighs 13cwt 2qr 22lb and the total weight of the eight bells is approximately 3 tons. The oldest bell in the tower is the current 4 which is the only bell not recast since 1746.
In 2016, the bells were improved by the installation of new rope guides and realignment of the bells to give a more evenly-spaced circle of ropes in the ringing chamber.
* Peal is a technical term for a series of changes rung in accordance with specific rules, consisting of 5040 permutations in a ring of eight bells.