St Mary's Church
A good ring of bells is one of the glories of an English country church, and Whissonsett is no exception.
Enthusiasts come from far and wide to ring Whissonsett’s five bells — but less than 20 years ago it seemed the St. Mary’s bells would be silent for ever.
Bell ringing enthusiast the Rev Andrew Sawyer took over the group of parishes in 1978 and found the bell-chamber in a parlous state.
The cracked tenor bell of the four had been scrapped in 1947, leaving the three remaining bells in a derelict and dangerous condition in a worm-eaten and rotten timber bell-frame.
But, undeterred, local fund-raisers began work in 1979 to raise the money to bring the sound back once again to Whissonsett. Volunteers removed the bells and frame and built and installed a new six-bell frame.
In 1981 the three old bells, now refurbished, were re-hung, and a redundant bell from the Norfolk parish of Didlington was bought and tuned as the second in a future ring of six. All the re-hanging work was done by local people under the supervision of Mr Sawyer.
The four bells were rededicated by the Archdeacon of Lynn in 1983 and church bells once more became a regular part of life in Whissonsett.
But the fund-raisers were not finished…
The gift of metal from a cracked bell at the redundant church of St Michael at Plea in Norwich was recast by famous bellmakers Taylor’s as the third in a future ring of six. The new bell, the fifth in Whissonsett’s ring, was dedicated on May 12 1985.
Details of the bells:
Bell 1 – Two cwt, one qr, 24 lb
VIRGINIS EGREGIE * VOCOR CAMPANA MARIA
Cast at the Norwich bell foundry, probably by John Baly c1500. The bell was apparently the treble bell at Ss Simon and Jude, Norwich, and was sold in 1881. It found its way to Didlingon church where it remained unhung. In 1981 the Didlington churchwardens sold the bell to Whissonsett for a nominal sum.
Bell 2 – Three cwt, one qr, one lb
LAUS DEO, FROM ST MICHAEL AT PLEA, RECAST 1985, THE REV A W SAWYER, RECTOR
The bell was recast, with additional metal, from that which formerly hung at Norwich St Michael at Plea inscribed:
I WAS RAISED BY FREE SUBSCRIPTION OF THE PARISH OF…….. THOMAS LESTER AND T. PACK FECIT ME
According to L’Estrange the bell was purchased for St Michael’s from the Norwich bellhanger Thomas Hurry in about 1824. It is said to have originally come from Stonham Aspall in Suffolk.
Bell 3 – Four cwt, 20 lb
E T 1674
Cast by Edward Tooke of Norwich.
Bell 4 – Six cwt, 10 lb
ANNO DOMINI 1594 WB
Cast by William Brend of Norwich.
Bell 5 – Seven cwt
IOHN BREND MADE ME 1646
Bell 6 – The sixth bell is a new treble bell weighing 2 cwt.
It was installed on December 12th. 1998 and is inscribed ‘It is raised for all who have supported this Church. Deo Gratis”.
The complete ring of bells welcomed in the 2000 Millennium.