St Clement's Church Bell Mystery

In the following letter to the editor of a 1899 issue of the Skegness Herald, a Mr Kirk  states that the caster of the bell at St Clement’s Church, Skegness, was William Underhill. This is contradictory to an article which appeared in a 1989 issue of the Skegness News where the local Revd. Geoffrey Spencer stated that the bell was cast by John Bird.

Let’s read the letter…

Michaelmas and the Church of St Clement’s

Sir – I was interested in a letter from ‘A Visitor’ in your last week’s issue, and on my return home referred to “North’s History of Lincolnshire Bells, 1882”.

The information about St Clement’s bell was given to Mr Thomas North by the late Mr James Fowler, of Louth.

It appears that Skegness, like several other nearby parishes, suffered the loss of portions of their ring by the action of the authorities, who sold the bells to pay for repairs to the churches.

The bell was cast by William Underhill, a medieval craftsman, and is 40 3/4 inches in diameter, which would give the approximate weight of 12 1/2 cwt.

The inscription as given by Mr North is slightly different from ‘A Visitors’, reading viz: ***** – which translates as ‘I am of sweet sound: I am called the bell of Michael’ – Yours faithfully, Herbert Kirk.

Source: Skegness Herald 6th October 1899

The following images are of the relevant pages in “North’s History of Lincolnshire Bells, 1882”.

In the first image, we can see that St Clement’s initially possessed three bells. It was reported in 1566 that one of the bells had been broken and defaced in Queen Mary’s time (1853-1858), and that two other bells had formerly hung in the tower.

bell_north

Remembering that North’s book was written in 1882, a William ffounder, according to the book, cast the St Clement’s bell.

ffounder_1

Below is the stamp as referred to in the above image:

ffounder_stamp

The next extract goes on to say that William ffounder was a pseudonym for William Underhill:

ffounder_underhill
After studying several more books pertaining to St Clement’s Church in the local library, some of which were written during the 1960s, it appears that the common  source of them all is Oldfield’s book of “The Candleshoe of Wainfleet….” written circa 1829. Therefore, they all concur with the above findings.

Turning now to the much later 1989 article in the Skegness News, the photo shows Rev Spencer with the bell of St Clement’s and you can see what appears to be some inscription on the bell. Spencer clearly states that the bell was cast by Bird around 1380.

So how come this is a different bell to the one described in all the reference books in the library, even as late as the 1960s? The tower cannot, surely, have been rehung with a different bell between then and the later article, for the fastening structure was said to be aged and rotten!

The whole affair is setting alarm bells ringing, if you ask me…

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