History of the Bells

The 1552 Inventory of Church Goods in Hertfordshire records four bells and a saunce (sanctus bell) at Essendon.

In his "Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire", Sir Henry Chauncy records that there were five bells in the tower in 1700.   Two of these are still in use - the present third (the treble of the five), and seventh (the tenor of the five).   The inscriptions on these bells show that they were cast in 1685 and 1681 by Richard Chandler III of Drayton Parslow, Buckinghamshire. 

In 1769 Samuel Whitbread of Bedwell Park gave a treble bell to augment the ring to six.   The bell was cast at Whitechapel by Thomas Pack.   Although of good tone it was, unfortunately, found to be cracked in the crown when the ring was restored in 1990, and was recast.   The present Whitbread family, who now live in Bedfordshire, generously arranged for the cost of this work to be met from a family trust.   The inscription from the original bell is reproduced in facsimile on the replacement.

In 1788 the six bells were rehung by John Briant of Hertford in a new oak frame.   In 1894 the bells were again rehung, by J R Gray of Hertford.   At this time the third bell was recast by Mears and Stainbank at Whitechapel and Ellacombe chiming apparatus was installed.   Mr Gray returned in 1903 to rehang the fifth following recasting by Mears and Stainbank.   In 1953 the bell frame was strengthened, independent crown staples were fitted and the bells were rehung on roller bearings, by the Whitechapel Foundry.

In 1990 a complete restoration and augmentation of the ring to a full octave was undertaken.   The treble and fourth of the ring of six were recast, and a new treble and tenor provided to form the present ring of eight bells with a 15 cwt tenor. The bells were completely rehung with new fittings in a cast iron frame on a substantial double foundation of galvanised steel girders supported on concrete pads cast into the tower walls.   This work was carried out by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to the Society's specification at a total cost of £42,000, entirely funded by donations from the Society's members, their friends and supporters.