The Bells of Swavesey

St Andrew’s Church has a ring of eight bells, augmented from six in 2005. Five of the former ring of six were cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots in 1753/1755 and have hung in the church ever since. The other bell (now the fifth) is thought to be about 100 years older. It may have been cast in Cambridge by Richard Holdfield, or in St Ives by his successor William Haulsey or by Toby Norris. Unfortunately, its original inscription has been filed off, possibly because it was considered ‘politically incorrect’ at the time when the other bells were installed.

In 1932 a metal frame was installed by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon to replace the old wooden one, which was in poor repair. The bells were rehung on ball bearings, with canon-retaining headstocks and modern fittings. The new frame was positioned in the tower to allow for the addition of two further bells on the north side.

Seventy years later, that plan has been realised: in 2002, to mark the Golden Jubilee of H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the bell ringers launched an appeal to buy two new bells and extend the frame. The funds were quickly raised, and the generous support of Swavesey businesses and present and former residents is gratefully acknowledged. The Ely Diocesan Association of Church 8ell Ringers also supported the appeal with a grant.

The bells were cast in autumn 2004 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and installed in March 2005 by White’s of Appleton, with the help of local ringers. They were dedicated by the Bishop of Ely at a special service on 17th April 2005. The treble bell is inscribed as a memorial to the Golden Jubilee and bears the Jubilee logo. The second bell was donated by John Shepperson to commemorate the Mitham family of bell ringers. Swavesey has been noted for centuries as having a good team of bell ringers, and for over 250 years the band has included at least one Mitham. When William Mitham died suddenly in 1780, he was described as ‘the best six-bell ringer in the County’. His name and the date 4th Oct 1747 can still be seen cut into a stone in the tower. Robinson Mitham was one of the Swavesey youths who, in 1828, rang seven peals lasting over three hours in total. Their achievement is recorded on a wooden board in the ringing chamber.