Harleston Bells

harleston bell tower

At the southern end of London Road, Harleston, in 1878, an enterprising group of three men set up the Redenhall Bell Foundry. Two of the group, Gervas Holmes and Arthur Peniston Moore, were keen tower bell ringers at St Mary’s Redenhall and both names appear on the peal boards there. They went on to become founders of the Norwich Diocesan Association of Tower Ringers (NDA), still a flourishing organisation. For their venture as bell founders, or maybe ”adventure” would be a more accurate description, as this appears to have been an enthusiasts’ enterprise, they were joined by Henry A O Mackenzie.

From the outset, their approach to bell founding was modern and innovative. They were described as excellent founders and pioneers, with bell fitting designs considered revolutionary for the time. The foundry was visited by the editor of the Bell News in July 1882, who found that ”the bells chimed very sweetly in tune”. The foundry produced bells for many churches – including Southwold, Harleston, St Andrew at Thorpe Episcopi Norwich, and Weybread. Each bell cast bore a shield bearing the rebus of the three partners in the firm: a boar’s head in a wreath for Moore, a Holm-oak for Holmes and a serpentine for Mackenzie.

Despite their good workmanship, the foundry struggled to gain success. Of 300 jobs applied for, only 43 bells were cast here. Potential customers were deterred perhaps by the very new fangled ideas, which were the foundry’s hallmark. In 1885, seriously disheartened, the group sold their stock and goodwill to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. All records of the Harleston Bell Foundry production have unfortunately disappeared from the books at Whitechapel. Redenhall Foundry Bells can still be heard at Weybread Church, across the River Waveney in Suffolk, just two and a half kilometres from the site of the foundry where they were cast. Their legacy lives on.

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