Arborfield Bellringers
with Barkham Berkshire, England

About Arborfield's Bells

Arborfield Church Tower has six bells. The document shown, which is on display in our ringing chamber, describes the six bells, their inscriptions, and when and where they were made.

This is in a frame on the wall of our ringing chamber.

The church was consecrated in 1863, which as you can see means that all the bells are older than the church! This is because five of those bells were previously hung at the old Arborfield Church about half a mile away, part of the ruins of which still stand. Read more about the history of churches in Arborfield at the excellent Arborfield Local History Society website.

The oldest bell was cast between 1363 and 1381. How often do you get to handle something over 600 years old; let alone swing it around on a wheel making a sound that can be heard from much of the village?

To put that into context, our treble bell was cast during the reign of the House of Plantagenet; either King Edward III or Richard II. This was before the Wars of the Roses. By the time Henry VIII was on the throne, the bell had already been ringing for 100 years. Charles II was on the throne when the bell was 200 years old. It was nearly 500 years old when moved to the current church!

However, the document states near the top that back in 1220, the church at Edburgefeld (the medieval name for the village) had "two good bells". It is possible those bells were melted down and recast for some of the bells that still hang today.

A bell tower has a "Tower Captain". Here is a list of Tower Captains over the last 80 years or so:

  • 1939: F Edwards
  • 1940-1947: Unknown (there was no ringing through much of the war)
  • 1948: P J Druett
  • 1949-1952: S Day
  • 1953-2001: L Hall
  • 2002-2010: J Atkinson
  • 2011-2015: Vacant
  • 2016-now: D Smith

    To access the ringing chamber, there is a spiral staircase, accessed from a door to the left of the church entrance. The adjacent church hall has toilets, and we usually have a social meeting there after Friday practice once a month.

    You can see Arborfield's entry in Dove's Guide here.

    Barkham's Bells

    Barkham Church was rebuilt only two years before Arborfield. Unlike Arborfield, its four bells were all cast for the new tower, in 1863. The bells are much lighter and easier to ring than Arborfield's, but you have to climb up a ladder to get to the ringing chamber in normal circumstances!

    You can see Barkham's entry in Dove's Guide here.