History of the Bells of
All Saints, Covington
|The first mention of bells in Covington Church is thought to be when a London itinerant bell founder, William Rufford, cast a bell in 1352. Another founder, William Dawe, cast another soon after. The bells would have been cast in the churchyard or a nearby field and it was quite common for travelling bell founders to come from the east end of London at this time moving from church to church. A third bell was cast by John Walgrave in 1418 and recast in 1459 by John Danyell, before the great restoration of 1500 during which the Church was considerably altered including work to the tower. The bells would have been hung in a simple timber frame at this time and hung for chiming only.
In 1670 the bells were taken down and rehung for full circle ringing in a new oak bell cage by John Landell of Buckden - this is the frame still in use. Some time during the next 25 years the earlier bells (that had now become bells 2 & 3) became cracked, probably through misuse. In 1695, the Churchwardens were cited for two cracked bells (VCH 51 Rec. Archdeacon of Hunts Terrier no.246 General Citations). A survey of 1709 gives three bells in the tower, of which two are cracked (VCH 52 Ibid no. 228 Terrier) and in the same year these were taken down and re-cast by Henry Penn, a bell founder from Peterborough. A year later the treble bell was also re-cast by Penn and rehung by Robert and John Langley of Buckden, who also modified all the ironwork, much of which remains in evidence today. By 1820, bells 2 and 3 were cracked again and taken down but this time were scrapped by Robert Wright, a bell hanger and iron monger from Oundle.
There is a local tale that two of the present bells came from Stow Longa (about 5 miles from Covington) and indeed they fit the pitch of the one bell remaining there. In 1820, Stow Longa gave two bells to George Peach, a St Neots bell hanger, as payment for the restoration work to the existing bell. These bells were sold by Peach to a Mr Peacock a watchmaker in the High Street in Kimbolton. The bells remained outside his shop for some time as for some reason he dared not sell them. Eventually they were sold to a Robert Wright who sold them to Covington Church and hung them in the tower (Thomas North, HCBRS Records).
From 1829 to 1841 one bell (the tenor) was constantly reported as being cracked (VCH 53 Ibid No 306 Archdeacon's records). The bell was recast by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel, London in 1841 and rehung by Robert Wright.
In 1896, the bells were inspected by Rev. Theodore Owen, vicar of Woodwalton, who found them to be in working order to ring or chime as required. (Church Bells of Huntingdonshire). However three years later, in 1899, the bells were reported to be in a poor state again and in need of rehanging (VCH 4 Ibid No 251 Parochial).
Nothing was done to the bells until 1928 when they were rehung and restored by Baker, an iron founder in Hargrave and brother of the then vicar of Hargrave. His foundry had already rehung the bells in Hargarve as part of a new business venture but, unfortunately on this occasion, they did not succeed at Covington and ever since this attempted restoration the bells have been difficult to ring.
One notable ringer in the early years was Thomas Brown, a local farmer whose family still farm in Covington and help to ring the bells now. By 1945 the bells had ceased to be rung in a full circle and only chimed. By the early 1960's only one bell was in use, but, by 1965, all the bells had became unsafe to ring and the ropes were removed. Mr Brown, as Churchwarden, was instrumental in commissioning another minor restoration in the early 1980s. Since then, a small team of ringers from Covington and Hargrave have kept the bells going in both villages. The bells have been rung periodically for village weddings and funerals and chimed on a regular basis for Sunday services.
Sources of Information
Information in this section is taken from:
The Lincoln Archives
Huntingdonshire County records
Victoria County History
Owens' Church Bells of Huntingdon
North's Church Bells of Northamptonshire
Village Bells and Itinerant Founders
Archdeacon of Huntingdonshire Terriers
Woodger's Church Bells of Huntingdonshire
We acknowledge with grateful thanks the Huntingdonshire Church Bell Restoration Society (HCBRS) for originally compiling much of the information.