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H.M. Alderman on the bells of North Mymms

Introduction


Councillor H.M. Alderman fourth fromleft attending a North Mymms Parish Council meeting in 1957 Image courtesy of NMPC and part of the Images of North Mymms Collection
Cllr H.M. Alderman, fourth from the left, attending a North Mymms Parish Council meeting in 1957
Image courtesy of NMPC and part of the Images of North Mymms Collection

70 years ago a series of articles appeared in the North Mymms Parish Magazine about the history of St Mary’s Church. They were written by Harry Maynard Alderman, a local writer, historian, accomplished artist, carpenter, and parish councillor.  In the 1940s and 1950s Mr Alderman was a frequent contributor to the parish magazine, writing serialised articles about St Mary’s church, including pieces about the history of the bells, the brasses, and the fabric of the church.

The North Mymms History Project has transcribed the series about the bells of St Mary’s from copies of the magazine published in December 1950 and in January, March, April, and May 1951. The source material is courtesy of the Peter Miller Collection.

H.M. Alderman (b.1887) wrote numerous local history booklets including: North Mymms - 140 Years of history. His work about North Mymms was first published in a 1930 edition of the ‘Illustrated Carpenter and Builder’ which, a year later, was revised and enlarged as a book ‘A Pilgrimage in Hertfordshire’.

Mr Alderman can be seen sitting fourth from the left in the photograph above. The image is courtesy of North Mymms Parish Council and shows the first meeting of the council to be held in the Memorial Hall on November 29, 1957.

Those in the photograph, part of the Images of North Mymms Collection are, from left to right: Cllrs W. Russell-Smith, B.W. Prettyman, G.T. Jackson, H.M. Alderman, C.W Allison (chair), M.G Woodend (Clerk), R.O.Geekie, W.G. Humphrey, R.Tingey, and E.J Evans.

Alderman Close in Welham Green is named after him.

Note: This site has another feature about the bells at North Mymms entitled Restoration of the belfry at St Mary's, North Mymms.



THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S NORTH MYMMS

By H. M. Alderman


North Mymms Parish Magazine December 1950


It is now generally known in the parish that the bells of the Parish Church need not only a general overhaul but also the oak framing or cage in which they hang has now been reported as being decayed and will have to be replaced.

It is nearly fifty years ago that the last overhaul took place, and as the subject is topical this detailed account and history of the bells will no doubt interest the readers of the Magazine.

The most ancient bell in the tower is the small one, known as a " Sanctus, Saints." "Priests'" or "Vesper" bell - it is independent of the peal and can be identified to be the one mentioned in the Inventory made by the Commissioners appointed during the last year of the reign of Edward VI (1553) as "Itm. A Saunce bell in the Steple." It may be mentioned in passing that the Inventory included all the sacred vessels and ornaments of the Altar and the apparel of the priest. William Dodd who had obtained a life interest in the Manor at his wife's death (Elizabeth Coningsby), signed the Inventory and presumably took possession of the valuable items, but left the bell in the "Steple" as not worth removing. It can be assumed, therefore, to be not less than four centuries old and may possibly be coeval with the tower itself, which was built at some time between 1440 and 1450.

What was the use of this small bell? It was rung at the Consecration and Elevation of the Host in the Mass, to call the faithful who were within hearing, to take part in the act of worship. Undoubtedly as the sound range was small the bell must have originally been hung near an opening in the tower to allow the sound to travel as far as possible.

Sir Henry Chauncy of Ardeley who visited North Mymms at the close of the 17th century (his History was published in 1700) states: he found the Church had "A Square Tower wherein is a Ring of five bells with a fair spire of Lead erected upon it." After the year 1700 there is a long gap in records of the Church; the arliest date of the Churchwardens' accounts extant is 1763, and though in these there are plenty of references to " beer for the ringers" there is no mention of the bells, until we come to the year 1806, when Briant of Hertford, a famous bell founder comes on the scene, and the bells are later taken away to his foundry for re-casting.

(to be continued…)

North Mymms Parish Magazine January 1951


(Continued)

When Briant recast the bells he incorporated in the moulds the date “1806" - but a close examination of the Churchwardens' Accounts over that period, viz., the first decade of the nineteenth century, raises some doubt as to whether this is accurate, because the entries of payment are spread over the following three years, though it is possible the delay in payment merely records a “time-lag" in raising the money.

There is no record of a further bell being added during the one hundred and eight years that elapsed between Chauncy's visit and the date of Briant's contract. So it is practically certain the latter not only cast six bells from the metal of the old five, but he also had material left over, from the fact that under date January 3rd, 1810, is an entry in the accounts as a Credit : " Briant * for Bell Metal £11 16s. 3d."

The first entry in connection with the work on the bells appears on September 30th, 1806: "Bryants Men Weighing the Bells 25. and 6 pence" - obviously a half-crown went a long way in those days. A year and three months later (December 21st, 1807): "Paid to Mr. Dover. Carriage Bells to Hertford €2 129. 60." and not until April ist, 1809, do we find: " Briants Contract for the Bells, £140 Os. Od." followed three days later with this : "Hensman Carriage of the Bells £2 129. 60." (return from Hertford to North Mymms). Coming to the year 1810, we find the next item on January 3rd: “Briant hanging the Vesper bell £2 10s. Od." followed by - on February 6th: "Putting stays to the Bells. £1 4s. Od."' and on the same day is the significant debit: "Ringers dinner on opening the bells £1 1s. 0d."

At the same time as work was proceeding on the bells extensive repairs and alterations were made to the tower, and the lead-covered spire was replaced by the existing copper-covered one; this work was paid for by levying two Church Rates  - Compulsory Church Rates were not abolished until 1868 - they could be levied for repairs to the fabric of the Parish Church and maintenance of the services - but the monies thus raised could not be used to pay for the bells. So private subscriptions had to be obtained and the following entries are in the accounts:

Excerpt from the January 1951 North Mymms Parish Magazine
Scan of a cutting from the Peter Miller Collection

[Online editor’s Note: In the excerpt above, Frederick Boon should be Frederick Booth of Moffats]

(to be continued…)

North Mymms Parish Magazine March 1951


(Continued)

As mentioned previously, there are many entries in the Churchwardens' Accounts from 1763 to 1843 of beer for the ringers, “their remuneration was not in cash, but beer. Seven "ringing days" are mentioned each year up to the date of Queen Victoria's Access.on in 1837, and after that, six Sunday ringing for the services was known as "chiming." The beer allowance was five shillings worth each "ringing" day up to 1806-10, it was then increased to six shillings which confirms Chawney's statement of there being five bells only, prior to the re-casting of 1506-10.

The "ringing days would be in addition to "Oak Apple Day, May 29th, and "Guy Fawkes Day" November 5th the King's birthday, Coronation day, etc., but they are not definitely specified in the accounts. Fortunately, however, We have receipts for payment for the beer, dated 1847 and 1818 with complete details, showing that ringing took place on May 24th, Queen's birthday, June 20th, Queen's Accession, June 21st, Queen's Proclamation, June 28th, Queen's Coronation, November 5th, Guy Fawkes day and November 9th, Prince of Wales' birthday.

Some very large payments for beer were made at times but as at a later date I propose to publish a transcription and examination of the Churchwardens' Accounts, fuller details are reserved.

Frequent references occur to "new ropes for the bells” - in fact they seem to have renewed them every year or two, which prompts the query - were the ropes and the beer an example of “cause and effect"?

The old custom of "ringing the Harvest Bell" was carried out in North Mymms; there are several entries in the accounts from 1845 to 1860 of payments made for this upon receiving intimation from the farmers the official responsible rang a bell which indicated to the women and children they could go into the harvest fields and commence gleaning.

We now come to the opening year of the twentieth century. Nothing had been done to the bells since Briant re-cast and re-hung them and an overhaul was necessary. Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel who had absorbed the business carried on by Briant at Hertford, were called in, and to pay for the work, the Churchwardens proposed that the Amber Tankard bequeathed to the church by Lady Lydia Mews in 1751 should be sold.

(To be continued)

North Mymms Parish Magazine April 1951


(Continued)

The suggested sale of the Amber Tankard aroused strenuous opposition in the parish. A special Vestry Meeting rejected the proposal but the matter was carried further, a poll being demanded, the result being a three-to-one majority against the sale.

The churchwardens then turned to voluntary subscriptions and to make the appeal both topical and attractive they launched it as a "Memorial” to Queen Victoria who had recently died (January 22nd, 1901). It is extraordinary that apparently no one in the parish pointed out there could be no permanency in a “Memorial" of this kind - so that the only tangible thing remaining for the money spent to commemorate the “long and glorious reign” of Victoria is a brass plate (which cost £6 Is. 6d.).

In addition to “quarter-turning” the six bells, fitting new clappers, new headstocks and bearings, Mears and Stainbanks also strengthened the oak framing in which the bells are hung: the work cost £123 10., of this amount £4 10s. was charged for re-hanging the Sanctus bell. After paying the account there remained a balance of just over £18 in the fund and this was handed to the "Treasurer of the Church Repair Fund."

Thomas North, F.S.A., made an examination of the bells in the year 1886 and in his work The Church Bells of Hertfordshire he gives the following inscriptions and measurements.

Excerpt from the April 1951 North Mymms Parish Magazine Scan of a cutting from the Peter Miller Collection
Excerpt from the April 1951 North Mymms Parish Magazine
Scan of a cutting from the Peter Miller Collection


(To be continued)

North Mymms Parish Magazine May 1951


(Concluded)

Nearly twenty years passed. The world war of 1914-19 was over. Then Mr. Charles Clauson, K.C. and Mrs. Clauson (later, Lord and Lady Clauson) gave the two bells to complete the full octave. The treble to the memory of Sir John E. Clauson, K.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief, Cyprus, who had died in 1918, and the second bell as a memorial to Brig. General Stuart Campbell Taylor, D.S.O., d. 1918, and Brig. General Edgar William Cox, D.S.O., d. 1918.

The Log Book of the North Mymms Society of Change Ringers makes interesting reading, but unfortunately it only commences in 1929, though previous records have been copied in: it informs us “there was no Change-Ringing attempted in the Tower by a local Band until 1911.” The first peal on the eight bells. Stedman Triples. 5,040 changes was on April 30th, 1921 in 2 hours 47 minutes and the first peal by an entirely local band on January 17th, 1924 - a peal of Bob Triples, 5,040 changes in 3 hours 10 minutes; the last entry records a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major, 5.152 changes. November 2nd, 1929, in 2 hours 41 minutes.

The Parish Magazine for October, 1867, under the heading of “Bellringers”, records "application was made to the Vicar (Rev. A. S. Latter) to allow the bells of the Church to be rung in peal from time to time by parishioners who wished to form themselves into a body as The  Ringing Class: the following are the RULES, draw up by themselves and sanctioned by the Vicar" - and they are very interesting.

For instance the second "That any member of the Class using profane language in the Church shall pay a fine not exceeding two shillings and sixpence; any member being fined for the same offence three times shall be expelled from the Class.”

And the third "No Beer or Spirituous Liquors of any kind to be brought into the Church: Smoking in the Church most strictly prohibited," whilst the following one reads: "Any member coming to the Church to practise showing any sign of intoxication shall be refused admittance and fined two shillings and sixpence,” etc.

"The Rules will be printed in large letters and hung up in a conspicuous part of the Gallery from which the Bells are rung.”

THE END




This site would like to thank the Peter Miller Collection and the Images of North Mymms Collection for the source material for this feature, and the advice and guidance given regarding the background information contained in the introduction.


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