St Mary's Church History

A church has been on this site since 1101AD when it formed part of a Benedictine Priory founded by Withenoc - Lord of Monmouth c.1075 - c.1082.  The mother church was located in St Florent just outside Saumur in France.   After the disestablishment of the monasteries during the reign of King Henry VIII, the church went into decay - Monmouth Priory was dissolved in 1536.

The church was later restored by the Georgians, under the guidance of Smith of Warwick in 1773 and further by the Victorians, under the architect George Edmund Street in 1882 at a cost of £6172.00. The spire rises to 60m. and is the work of Nathaniel Wilkinson of Worcester.

The oldest surviving part of the original church is the Norman respond set into the tower which itself is 14th century.  There is a peal of eight bells which were recast by Abraham Rudhall in 1706 and renovated and rehung in 1982.  A new oak and glass panelled screen fronts the new entrance to the tower and is the only memorial to the crew of H.M.S. Monmouth, which was lost with all 687 hands in 1914 off the coast of Chile.

The precise origins of the bells are unknown but prior to 1678 there were 5 bells. The sixth bell was cast on Jan.19th. 1678 by John Pennington, a local bell maker. At least two of the bells were removed and recast on the 23rd. June 1685 by Rudhall's Bell Foundry in Gloucester. All the bells were rehung by Evan Evans of Chepstow in 1704 at a cost of £3.00. The existing ring of eight were recast in 1706 by Abraham Rudhall at a cost of £60. Oil for the new bells was 10 d a half pint in 1706.

In 1883 the bell frame was replaced at a cost of £200 by a new timber frame inscribed 'George Day & Son, Church Bell Hangers, Eye, Suffolk, 1883'. All eight bells were overhauled in 1953 by Gillett & Johnson of Croydon. The bells fell silent in 1972 for repairs to the steeple which was seen to sway when the bells were rung. A new bell frame was installed in 1982 and the bells retuned by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry at a cost of £22,000. The bells are now pealed from a platform above the new entrance to the church.

The first recorded peal of five thousand and forty changes was mentioned in Pugh's Hereford Journal on Wednesday 21st. December 1791. Local tradition has it that at least one of the bells was presented to the church by Henry V who took issue with having bells rung as he left Calais.



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