St James’ Church Bells
Up until the 1890’s there were only five bells at Somerton, all of them ancient and mostly dating from the first half of the 17th century. In 1896 a sixth bell was cast by Messrs J Taylor & Co and hung by Messrs White. This was added by the then Rector George Barnes as you will seem from the list of inscriptions.
All the bells were re-hung by Messrs J Taylor & Co in 1931 into a steel frame. With considerable forethought provision was made at the same time to hang two further bells which you will see as numbers 1 and 2 on the inscription list.
These two bells were cast at Whitechapel in 1993 and put into the two vacant pits for augmentation to a ring of eight bells which were dedicated by The Venerable J Hewitt Wilson in 1994.
The ringing bells were installed in the tower in the 17th century. Originally there were 4, then 2 were added in the 19th century, followed by another 2 in the 20 th century (donated by the Grant family, in remembrance of Shirley Grant’s son).
The original timber bell frame was replaced in the early 20th century for a steel frame.
The tower dates from about the 14th century, and is constructed of local lime and Horton stone. The battlements and pinnacles at the top of the tower were added in the 15th century, along with the gargoyles. The louvers were probably added in the 16 th or 17th century, when the single chiming bell was added.
Church bells were rung to announce a death. At Somerton this was done as soon as a death occurred at one time, by the early 20th century only between sunrise and sunset as was customary elsewhere.