The earliest reference to the bells occurs in 1607 when they were re-cast. The memorandum says that: “The foure Bells in Abbatts An church were altogether new cast, by Mr. John Wallys of Salsbury in November, Anno 1607. We had but three belles, and did cast them into 4 adding to them 127 li. of mettell which we bought of the bellfounder after the rate of 9d. the li. For the casting of the four belles, we paid for every of the four bells liiis 4d, a peec. The carpenters, smithes work, clappers mending, caryage of them, hanging and all other expenses came to vi li. All the charges at the bellfounders, for casting and mettaile, was xvi. Ii. in toto 22 li.” A fifth bell was later added, presumably during the 18th century. A sixth bell was added in 1989, following much energetic fund-raising by the bellringing team, in order to improve the peal.
The inscriptions on the bells are as follows:
No. 1. FEAR GOD HONOUR THE KING 1729 IC HARRY COLE CW Re-cast by Gillett & Johnston, Croydon 1939
No. 2. HOPE WELL 1W 1607 Re-cast by Gillett & Johnston 1939
No. 3. LOVE GOD 1W 1607 Re-cast by Gillett & Johnston 1939
No. 4. ROBERT WELLS. ALDBOURNE FECIT 1764
No. 5. FEAR THE LORD IW 1607 JUBILEE. GOD BE IN MY MOUTH 1989 Taylors of Loughborough
IW were the initials of Bellfounder John Wallis of Salisbury, and IC those of John Coe, also of Salisbury. Taylors of Loughborough are one of only two firms of bellfounders still existing in this country. The name Harry Cole on No. 1. bell commemorates a Churchwarden.
The Clock was built by Bensons of London and strikes the hours on the Tenor Bell. It is now wound electrically.
The church also has a set of hand bells, though we do not know how old they are.
We know, from anecdotal accounts passed down from one tower captain to the next, that bells were removed from the bell tower at the beginning of WWII in 1939 and stored purportedly in the pub for safe keeping. At the end of the war, the story goes that there were no approaches were made to recover the bells, and over time they were forgotten.
Then in 2004, Lyn Dewey landlady of the ‘Eagle’ who was also the grand-daughter of the landlord of the ‘Eagle’ before and during the war, was clearing out the loft of her late father’s house when she came across and old cardboard box containing the bells all wrapped up carefully in tissue paper. The bells had been found after 65 years. The bells were handed over to the church warden who passed them on to present team of bell ringers and they were retuned to the tower to be stored securely.
In November of 2012, when all was in place and the bell ringers, well versed in full circle ringing of the large church bells, had time to practice using hand bells, a service of dedication was held. The service was presided over by the Bishop of Basingstoke.
The bell ringing team hope to re-gain some of the skills lost during the bells absence and hope to add hand bell ringing to there repertoire with monthly practices.
Interested in getting involved? Visit the Bell Ringers Page