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COVENTRY, Holy Trinity 8, 23-1-15 in Eb

Grid Reference 140/333786 Coventry, Holy Trinity Church - Source: M Chester
Postcode CV1 5EX
Peals Felstead Database
Date Lost 1966/67


Coventry's power split in medieval times is really demonstrated here. This church all but shares a churchyard with the St Michael's church, now the Cathedral. This is because Coventry used to be split into two power bases, the Crown and the Earl. The boundary line was between the two churches.

The church dates from the 12th century and is the only Medieval church in Coventry which is still complete.  It is 59 metres (194 feet) long, and has a spire 72 metres (237 feet) high. The church was restored in 1665–1668, and the tower was recased in 1826 by Thomas Rickman. The east end was rebuilt in 1786 and the west front by Richard Charles Hussey in 1843. Holy Trinity was "Gilbert Scotted" during the restoration of the 1850s, in that the central tower's floors were removed to let more light into the building. The bells therefore could no longer remain in that tower.

There were six bells until 1776 when Pack & Chapman provided a new ring of eight, tenor 20-0-18. Six peals rung on the bells (including one of 10,128 in 1787) between 1776 and 1807.

The bells, with the front 7 recast, were hung in a wooden campanile to the side of the church in 1856, the tenor subsequently being recast in 1898). This tower was never strong enough to hold a ringing peal. Peter Border told me of a time when he rang up the tenor by its wheel to frame height - and then he rang it back down very quickly amidst a mass of creaks and groans! Chris Pickford tells me that there is little evidence that the bells were ever rung regularly in this wooden tower.  However, he has found a report of some ringing on the front 6 in the latter part of the 19th century. This appeared in "Bell News" on September 24th 1898:

The following extract from the Coventry Free Press has been sent:—
“The new tenor bell for Trinity Church was delivered by Messrs. Taylor and Co., Loughborough, on Wednesday, and it is now hung in the belfry. In addition to the names of the Vicar and wardens, the bell bears the in scription:— “ Vox mea ad gloriam sanctas Trinitatis clamst adeste fideles.” It will be rung for the first time on Sunday during the five minutes before the eleven o’clock service.”
Every one knows that there are three churches in Coventry each with splendid spires. Alas! the beautiful ring of ten which used to hang in St. Michael’s, where are they? At Trinity Church , where Messrs. Taylor have just put in this new bell, the eight bells were not in the tower, but in a wooden shed, and were only chimed. We are told by the foregoing extract that the new bell will be “ rung.” Can any kind friend say if these eight bells have been hoisted into their recognised position?"

Later, Taylors installed an Ellacombe to allow the bells to be chimed - "Chiming apparatus installed at Holy Trinity to enable the eight bells in the wooden belfry in Priory Row to be heard again. Installed through the generosity of Mrs. J.G. Gray. Mr. C.H. Webb of the Allesley band has promised to chime the bells of Holy Trinity in the future (Ringing World 11 Dec.1953 p.809)"

The church and the campanile survived relatively unharmed in the Coventry Blitz on November 14th 1940. There was an article about the campanile in The Ringing World of December 6th of that year. Here it is indicated that there had at one time been some ringing on the bells - doubles on the front 5 with the others clocked, and, on rare occasions, the back 6 were rung. It also reveals to me that there had been plans to make the bells ringable prior to WWII, about which I had no knowledge until recently. A clarifying letter was published in the edition of December 20th:

(Click to enlarge) 
This appeared in The Ringing World of December 1th 1953

As late as the 1957 Guild AGM hopes that the bells might be returned to the church tower were being expressed, but to no avail.

The tower was taken down in 1966/7, partly to provide space for a church hall, it being subsequently demolished to open up the ruins of the Priory. Even at this point there was hope that they would be returned to the church tower as a ring - in The Ringing World of February 11th 1966, in a report about A Coventry Guild Quarterly Meeting, it was said, "The secretary also stated that Holy Trinity, Coventry, bells would shortly be sent to the bell foundry, but it could be some years before they would be back in the tower as a serviceable ring as the spire had to be rebuilt before the bells could be put in."

After a decade of storage at Taylor's foundry, the bells were sold to Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand for the value of the metal and then incorporated into their new ring of 12. These bells are currently in storage in New Zealand following the destruction of the Cathedral by an earthquake in February 2011.

Chris Pickford in his book on Coventry Cathedral bells says that 2 bells were cracked by 1831 and they were taken down until 1841 after which they were chimed only until 1854. There has been repeated structural trouble with the tower, (which again needed a major restoration in 2000). Seven bells were then recast by Mears and all 8 put in the campanile.  Around the same time, he published an excellent, comprehensive, article on the history of the bells over several pages in The Ringing World of May 22nd 1987:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5
 (Click pages to enlarge)

The inscriptions are given in Tilley and Walters' book, "The Church Bells of Warwickshire":

For a full account of the history please see Chris Pickford's article in The Ringing World dated 22 May 1987.

Details of the Bells

1 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856   6-1-06
2 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856   6-3-14
3 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856   7-1-20
4 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856   8-1-03
5 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856  10-0-08
6 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856  11-2-21
7 C. & G. Mears, Whitechapel       1856  13-2-17
8 John Taylor & Co., Loughborough  1898  23-1-15

htcov_small ht-ceil_small
The Wooden Tower The ceiling of the church
at the level that would have
been the ringing room
ceiling in the tower.

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