1696 Church Bells.
The earliest record of bells is in the will of Stephen atte Nashe dated 1474, when he gave 20d for the repair, support and renovation of one bell.
Our present ring of bells were mainly hung in this year of 1696 and bear the names of the churchwardens of the time. The reason for recast at this time was due to damage by fire at a cost of £1,500. These details are recorded in a request to the Justice of the Peace at Maidstone, for permission to ask for assistance in their restoration in a brief, dated October 3rd 1693,to be read out to local parishes.
" On ye 14th of September 1693 there happened a lamentable fire in an oasthouse near the churchyard which having consumed ye said oasthouse and a malthouse adjoining with a barn also full of corn and hay, and this fire being driven by ye wind seized on ye steeple at ye top just under ye bowle of ye spire, which being out of the reach of mans help did in 4 or 5 hours burn downe ye said spire with all the chambers to ye ground and melted all ye bells, which were very tuneable ones, besides one great bell, so yet we have not a bell loft to call people together at time of divine service. Now this said loss being too great for this poor parish ever to repair without ye help of charitable and well disposed people. Our humble request is therefore that this Honourable Bench will be pleased to assist us so far as we may obtain a brief to help to repair some part of the losses. "
The art and practice of bell-ringing dates back many centuries, and various customs decided when and how Church Bells should be rung.
In the Middle ages, the usual rule for services was Matins at 8, and Mass at 9, with a Midday Peel and in some cases an evening "Ave" peal or "Curfew".
One custom that died out at the end of the 18th century was that of ringing at the actual time of death of a parishioner, but this was given up in favour of performing only the Death Knell. This was rung on the actual day or early next morning, and repeated again on the morning of the funeral.
The manner of ringing the knell varied, but the usual custom was the use of "tellers" to denote the sex, i.e. three times three strokes for a man and three times two for a woman, with varying use for children.
Change-ringing was unknown until the end of the last century, at which time our Church ringers were fined one penny if absent from practice, or the Sunday team without a good reason, and had to be at Church at least one hour before the service began.
Some local facts, plus practices at the start of this century are:
Yalding has six bells up to 48 inch 18 cwt. fellow, that were mainly case in 1696. The Death knell was rung commencing with the tellers, then after an interval of one minute the bell is struck twice and set, and so On during each minute for the space of half an hour. Two bells were chimed for the 8.0 a.m. Mass and peals at 5.30 a.m. on special days, with a half-muffled peal at intervals on Good Friday.
It was also the custom to ring a mid-day peal.