Brightlingsea’s tubular bells

Ten tubular bells at All Saints Church in BrightlingseaThe bells of All Saints Church in Brightlingsea

All Saints Church in Brightlingsea, stands in a prominent position just outside the town by the side of the main road. The church has an impressive tower, which has dominated the surrounding countryside since its completion around 1550. However, this church has a secret hidden away within its tower, in the form of an unusual set of bells.

The majority of English church towers usually contain a set of six or eight bells, all of varying ages, sizes and tones, cast and shaped in the traditional way. The bells at All Saints are quite different, as they are tubular in style. These bells are also known as chimes, to which All Saints has a set of ten, manufactured in 1889. The largest producer of tubular bells was Harrington, Latham & Company based in Coventry, who produced them from the 1880’s to the 1940’s. Harrington, Latham & Company manufactured the bells at All Saints. These tubular bells vary in length with the longest being just over eight feet in length, weighing around 70kg. Their sounds are generally a little warmer and more mellow compared to regular bells.

We hear church bells rung on a Sunday morning, as they call us for the morning service. The bell ringers pull down on the long ropes which swings the bells, their tune changing as the changes are rung in succession. Tubular bells are rung differently, with one person able to ring all the bells, simply by pulling a rope a few inches on the ringing console. This activates the hammer at the top of the bell, making them quicker to ring in comparison to regular bells. This different ringing action allows for the playing of more recognised tunes instead of the regular sounds produced by traditional bells.

One Colchester church, has a connection to All Saints. Back in 1904, when the new church of Christ Church, was nearing completion, they were looking for a suitable Sanctus bell. With a limited budget, they formed a special committee to look at the option of installing a tubular bell. The committee visited All Saints to take a look. Comments made in the parish magazine of St. Mary’s at the Walls stated: “The committee were suitably impressed by their set of tubular bells,” so much so, that a single bell was ordered for Christ Church. This tubular bell was in the tone of lower ‘C’ and manufactured at a cost of £23-8s-4d, equivalent to £2600 in 2018 values.

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