Rotherhithe, St Mary with All Saints
Practice Night: 2nd & 4th Tuesdays (alternates with Bermondsey)
Ringing Times: Sunday Service: 9.15 -9.45. Practice 7.30pm - 9.00pm
Contact: Tower Secretary: Colin Friend firstname.lastname@example.org
Bells rang out from the tower of St Mary’s long before the present third church was built. An old inventory shows that St Mary’s had “Item ij belles in the steeple” Evidently they had to be replaced for in July 1551 the two bells were sold to “Androwe Sayre of London Scoope Maker”
The entry reads “Ther was sold ij belles of cccc iij qr xiij lb. weight at xxxs the c. vij li. x” £7.50 does not seem to be a bad price to get for them in the values of that day. These two bells were soon replaced by four others. In the inventory of 1552 in the reign of King Edward VI there is an entry “Item foure belles waying by estymacion vij c weight”
Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, so it must have been these bells that rang for her coronation and probably remained in the tower until it was rebuilt in 1746.
There is a very interesting account of ringing on these bells at Rotherhithe in the book Change Ringing – The History of an English Art – Volume 3 (page 41). A group of ringers was formed in November 1733 with the objective of ringing all the peals of 3, 4, 5 and 6 bells in the City of London and ‘bills of Mortality’, and to ring at a different place at every time of meeting. The “Rambling Ringers” as they were known also had a colourful social life !.
They rang at Rotherhithe on June 6th 1734 and they travelled by boat. They rang 720 Bob Minor and 360 treble Bob Minor. They went back by boat to Milk Alley, Wapping and the Waterman’s Arms, and seventeen of them sat down to supper. This consisted of beans and boiled bacon, and a roast leg of mutton with cauliflower. After supper they ‘drank a dram’ and each member of the party told a tale or sang a song.
Shortly after, the tower was rebuilt and in 1748 Thomas Lester cast the present ring of eight at Whitechapel. There have been numerous problems with these bells ever since.
In 1831 the tenor was recast by Thomas Mears and in 1863, the 7th and Tenor were recast by George Mears at Whitechapel, presumably because they had become cracked. By 1910 the timber frame was not apparently in good condition, because it was replaced with a new metal one. Things did not stop here; just three years later the foundations of the tower were extensively underpinned and the structure restored.
The bells were restored in 1996 and full details of this project are on the tower website at http://www.docklandsringers.co.uk/towers/rotherhithe/restoration-of-the-bells-1996-99/