The 230th Anniversary of the First Six Bells.


January 18th 2018 marks the 230th anniversary of the ringing of the original six bells at Christ Church. Over the years four more bells were added to give a fine ring of ten.

In 1785 the southwest corner of the church was built over. The pews were, as was customary, auctioned off to the highest bidder. This produced a profit of £600, not an inconsiderable amount at that time.

Christ Church was much smaller than today but the churchwardens felt, for a number of reasons, the need to have a large steeple with bells. We are fortunate to have the citation, and counter petition, dating from 1786 when the Vicar and wardens were seeking a Faculty to erect the steeple.

The Vicar and churchwardens stated: -

that there was only one bell weighing ‘no more than 6 stones and that it couldn’t be heard throughout the large and populous parish.’ (At that time it stretched from Wallsend to Monkseaton)

that because the parishioners could not hear the bell there was ‘great confusion and interruption due to the opening and closing of the pew doors, early as well as late, during Divine Service.’

that the problems could be overcome by erecting of a steeple 25 feet square and 82 feet high and providing six good bells. They argued that it would also be ‘highly ornamental.’

Following the reading of the citation in church a petition was sent from a group of parishioners and inhabitants to the Bishop of Durham raising a number of objections.

The objectors argued: -

that part of the money raised from the sale of the pews was meant to go to the Vicar to raise his stipend.

that one good bell raised in a cupola on the west wall of the church would suffice and that any other bells would not be heard,’ North Shields being under a high hill.’

that the inconveniences referred to were no worse than in any other parish church and that ‘a well regulated clock in the house of each parishioner will remedy in a great measure the inconvenience complained of.’

that the tower was badly designed and the money better spent on some more useful and beneficial plan especially that ‘most laudable Institution of a charity School for the education of poor children in a Town and neighbourhood where many hundreds of children of poor and distressed Mariners and useful mechanics might be qualified for the sea and other Services advantages to themselves, their parents and the community at large.'

The objectors' petition was rejected and a Faculty granted for the steeple and bells. A wealthy ship owner and churchwarden, James Storey Esq., gave the bells

The first ring of six bells was lost at sea on their journey north from the foundry of W & T Mears in London. The second set arrived safely on a ship called "The Happy Return" owned by Mr. Davis Hewson of Whitburn.

Placed in the newly completed steeple, the bells first rang out to celebrate the official birthday of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III on January 18th 1788

The bell ringers presented Mr. Storey with a bottle, on one side of which the following words were engraved: -

'Long life to the Queen, likewise to the King,
May the bells of this steeple for centuries ring'

and on the opposite side were these words: -

'Here is a health to us all, long may we admire,
All the good works of James Storey, Esquire.'

6 bells

Mike Scott