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MONKS KIRBY St Edith 8, 24-2-7 in D

Grid Reference 140/463831 Monks Kirby Church - Source M Chester
Postcode CV23 0RE
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday On a Rota
Practice Tuesday 1945-2115


Found just off the Fosse Way this is a very impressive church that dominates the village. As its name implies it used to be a monastery, but Henry VIII saw to that! The parish church is what remains, there being archaeological evidence of further buildings such as cloisters. The entrance is inside, through the South Door, but linger to look at the church itself before climbing the stairs. Locally the church is often known as St Editha, as is Tamworth, for instance.

The church stands on the summit of a small mound, on the south side of a large churchyard planted with avenues of yew trees. It consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles and chapels, south porch with a parvise, vestry, and a tower built into the south-west corner of the church. It was rebuilt in the latter part of the 14th century and again towards the end of the 15th century, when the present arcades were built, the upper part of the tower rebuilt, and most of the windows replaced. The priory buildings were on the north side of the chancel; part of them were embodied in the church during the 15th-century reconstruction to form the chapel. Apart from the blocked openings, a door jamb, offsets for an upper floor against the chapel, and the line of a steep roof on the north wall of the chancel, nothing remains of the priory buildings. About the end of the 16th century the church was re-roofed; it was re-leaded in 1709, according to a cast lead inscription removed from the roof in the 19th century, now fixed to the east wall of the parvise. The general arrangement of the church is somewhat unusual, the nave, until recent times, extended into the chancel without a chancel arch or other line of demarcation except, no doubt, a screen. Although the church is lofty there is no clearstory, but the windows are placed at an unusual height above the floor. The tower is tall and exceptionally large. When the upper part was rebuilt in the 15th century it included a tall octagonal spire; this was blown down on Christmas night 1722.

The bells themselves are magnificent and should be on any itinerary of this area. The then anticlockwise 6 were hung in a new, clockwise, cast iron lowside frame with new fittings by Taylors, 1921. At the same time all 6 existing bells were quarter turned.  The tenor weighed 26-0-18 before it was tuned. The bells had been previously rehung by John Over of Rugby in 1795. The Bell News of November 15th 1902 notes that the ring of 6 was not in perfection condition!

"Monks Kirby (Warwickshire).— On Saturday, October 4th, a band of ringers from Coventry journeyed by brake to the above place to have a pull on the fine-toned ring of six bells, but owing to the bad go of them only a few plain courses of Grandsire Doubles could be rung. W . H. Rees, S. Hope, W . Mannd, H . Horwood, J. H. W hite, E . Johnson. Also several touches with A. Flowers and G. Burton standing in. It is a great pity that such a fine ring of bells should hang in such a bad condition, it being impossible to ring for any length of time." A report of ringing there in 1912 shows that the bells were still difficult to ring and said to be suffering from neglect.

The dedication of the rehung and augmented ring is reported in The Ringing World of June 24th 1921:

The old parish, church of Monks Kirby, Warwickshire, now possesses a magnificent ring of eight bells, one of the finest peals in the county. For many years the six old bells had hung in the tower in a dangerous condition, and could not be rung with safety owing to the decayed and dilapidated state of the wooden beams and supports, and it was found neceasary to remove all the old timber, etc., and to entirely rehang the bells with new fittings in now framework. This work was entrusted to Messrs. John Taylor and Co., of Loughborough, and the bells are now a noble peal in their strong and massive iron frames on stout steel supporting girders. The fittings are of the most modern design, and contain all the many improvements that have been introduced by Messrs. Taylor, the most important, perhaps, being tbe patent ball bearings in which the bells swing, and everything is designed with a view to the strain placed on the structure of the tower by tbe thrust of the bells being reduced to an absolute minimum.  The six old bells have been tuned whilst at Messrs. Taylor’s foundry, and two new trebles have been added to complete the octave. The "bells are now a perfect peal, and tho musical effect is very marked. The tenor, dating from 1618, note D natural, weighs between 24 and 25 cwt., and tbe total weight of the bells, fittings, frame, girders, etc., exceeds 15 tons.

The six old bells are very interesting, from an archeological point of view, the smallest, dated 1640, bearing the following inscription:—

My noble founders they have been so many,
Because not all I will not here name any.

The old 3rd bell, now the 5th of the ring of eight, is the most ancient bell of the peal, and from the marks and inscription it is probable that this bell was cast towards the middle of the 15th century. It may be mentioned, too, that this bell is supposed to have hung originally in the destroyed church of Stretton, and was at some time transferred to Monks Kirby Church.

The tower at Monks Kirby will henceforth undoubtedly prove a source of great attraction to bell ringers from all parts, furnished as it now is with such a magnificent ring of bells, and, most ideally situated in the midst of a charming country, it is likely that the village will become a great centre for campanology.

One of the most successful gatherings in the history of the Warwickshire Guild took place at Monks Kirby on Thursday, June 9th, for the dedication of the bells. The service was conducted by the Bishop of Coventry, and the church was filled. A band had been selected for the opening touch (three leads of Grandsire Triples), and was arranged as far as possible to include all the present and past officers of tile Guild. It included A. Roberts (Master), E. H. Adams and J. George (exMasters), H. Argyle (Central Council representative), A. Wilkerson (hon. secretary), with T. W. Chapman (Nuneaton), and F. Pcrvin (Stoke-in-Coventry), Mr. J. Oldham represented Messrs. Taylor and Co., the founders. Tho band stood as follows:— MesCTs. A. Roberts 1, H. Argyle 2, E. H. Adams 3, J. Oldham 4, T. W. Chapman 5, A. Wilkerson 6, F. E. Pervin 7, J. George 8. Upwards of 50 ringers were present during the afternoon and evening from Allesley, Birmingham. Burtou-011- Trent, Coventry, Croft, Exhall, Leicester, Loughborough, Northampton, Nuneaton, Rugby, Sharnford, Stoke-in-Coventry, Wolsey and Warwick. What the number would have been had the opening been on a Saturday is difficult to tell. Everyone present was greatly impressed with the ' tone ’ and ‘ go ’ of the bells, several of the experts dubbing the peal the finest octave in the county, and the founders are to be congratulated on the excellent splice they have made. The selected band of ringers were invited to tea on the vicarage lawn, in company with the large number of inhabitants and others assembled. The methods rung during the afternoon and evening included London, Bristol, Cambridge and Superlative Surprise, Double Norwich, Plain, and Kent Treble Bob, Grandsire and Stedman Triples.

The bells were lowered in peal about 8 p.m., after which Mr. H. Withers, of Birmingham, performed on the chiming apparatus, which has also been installed.

It was a red-letter day for the villagers, and one that will be remembered for many years to come.

The first peal was rung soon afterwards:

There were a number of peals rung in quick succession. The (ringing) vicar stated at a Guild meeting in September 1924: "....., in reply, said how pleased Mrs. Oliver and himself were to welcome the Guild. They would have liked to see more present., but no doubt the very wet afternoon kept some away. He also said he very much regretted to have to refuse the bells on several occasions recently for peals. Complaints had been received that too much peal ringing had been going on. and although he himself loved to hear the bells rung, he did not wish the bells to become unpopular, and. therefore, he had reluctantly stipulated that attempts for peals must in future be limited to once a month."

In the mid-1970s everything was getting in a pretty neglected state and the bells were seldom rung, but they have overhauled since the tower has had an active band. The seventh was previously cast in 1707 by Abraham Rudall, but required recasting some 34 years later.

The Denbigh Arms opposite the church is not just somewhere to park your car. It has nice food and a good selection of real ale!

Details of the Bells

1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough   1921   6-0-20  30.375"  1158.0Hz (D-28c)
2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough   1921   7-3-00  32.625"  1095.0Hz (C#-22c)
3 Henry Bagley I, Chacombe         1640   8-0-17  34.438"   974.0Hz (B-24c)
4 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston          1711   9-0-23  37.063"   870.0Hz (A-20c)
5 Worcester foundry               c1400  12-3-10  41.375"   775.0Hz (G-20c)
6 Hugh Watts II, Leicester         1623  16-0-16  44.25"    730.0Hz (F#-24c)
7 Thomas Eayre, Kettering          1741  19-2-17  48.25"    651.0Hz (E-22c)
8 Hugh Watts II, Leicester         1618  24-2-07  52.375"   579.5Hz (D-23c)

monks_kirby_tomb.jpg monks_kirby_tomb2
The Medieval Tombs
 The Church - Looking East. Source: Aidan MacRae Thomson
The Church - Looking East

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