St. Mary's Church Bells

Heard for the first time in 36 years on November 19th 1949

Extract from an article titled ‘Our Bells’, published in the August 1977 issue of St. Mary’s Church Parish Magazine.

On November 19th 1949, the bells of St. Mary’s were heard for the first time in 36 years.  Repair work had been carried out on the old bells and the new bell which was given as a thanksgiving for victory was dedicated, making the number up to six.

Charles Matson wrote:
The tower was built about the 13th and 14th centuries, and it is probable that one or more bells were then hung in it.  It seems probable that the old third bell, now the fourth in our ring of six, which was cast early in the 15th century, was one of three, and it is possible that one or more of the others is a recast of the old ones.  Three of our bells were cast in the 17th century and the main body of the bell frame is considered to be of this period, and there was obviously then a ring of five.

Early in the 20th century defects developed in the bell-frame and in the tower, and ringing proper was stopped c.1913 on this account.

The South Benfleet ringers who all rang on the dedication day were the misses M. Pearcey, A.J. Matson, B.N. Matson, Master P. Herbert and Messrs. G. Wines, W.E. Cooley, E. Quilter and C.L. Matson.


Details of St. Mary’s Church Bells
No.Approx Weight
cwts  qrs  lbs
Date & FounderInscription
1 6         1        01664 J. Hodgson
of London
John Hodgson made me 1664. C.C,C.P.
C. Wardens  W.H.
2 7         0        01790 Thos. Mears
of Whitechapel
Mr. Henry Blewitt
Thos. Mears late Lester,
Pack & Chapman of London,
Fecit 1790
3 8         2        0Early 15th Century
John Walgrave of
Nomen Magdalene Campana
Gerit Melodie
4 9        3         01676 Miles Graye
of Colchester
Miles Graye made me
5 13     3         01636 John & Henry Wilner of Borden,
J.W.,H.W. , made me
1636,  T.W, I.R., C.W.
                                         In 1949 a new bell, a treble, was added.
65      1           221949 Mears & Stainbank,
A Thanksgiving for Victory 1939 – 1945


The Rev. Leighton Houghton with the bells about to be re-hung, in 1949
From 'Bygone Benfleet' by Norman Chisman
The six bells of St. Mary's, here in the up position, ready to be rung
From 'South Benfleet A History' by Robert Hallman

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  • A comment on “In 1949 a new bell, a treble, was added.” I have a small hand-bell marked “Thanksgiving for Victory 1939-1945” which was presented, I believe, to my grandfather, Walter Johnson in 1949 when he was Chairman of the Council, to mark the inauguration of the new church bell. I would be very interested to know whether any other such hand-bells were made at the time and given to other council members, and whether anybody else in Benfleet has inherited one. Incidentally both bells were made in the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which is now closed. The fate of this historic factory in East London is due to be decided by the government in the very near future.

    By Ian Johnson (13/05/2021)

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