The bells St Mary-le-Tower are amongst the best known in Britain. There were five bells and a Sanctus in 1553 of which Miles Graye I of Colchester recast the Treble in 1607 and the Tenor in 1610. In 1671 John Darbie of Ipswich recast the 2nd and 4th and added a Treble to make a ring of six. By the addition of two trebles by Christopher Hodson in 1688 this ring became the second octave in Suffolk (Horham in 1672, and Framlingham and Bungay in 1718). The first full peal recorded on the bells is Grandsire Triples on 12th December 1735.
Two more Trebles to make ten were cast by Taylor in 1844/5. Then with the great Victorian rebuilding of 1865, the opportunity was taken to provide Suffolk with its only ring of twelve, for in the following year a new Treble and Tenor were added. In 1976, a full scale restoration took place with the recasting of eight of the bells by Taylor of Loughborough, including a fine new Tenor of 35cwt. in the key of Dflat, retuning the remainder and rehanging with all new fittings.
A sharp 2nd was added in 1980.
In 1999 following the generous bequest by Dr Ronald Jones the 5th was recast, and the 8th retuned. Bells 9, 10 & 11 were replaced with bells cast to a heavier weight. The old 9th is going to Australia to form the Tenor of a ring of 8 in the key of F#. The old 10th is hung in the Tower as the ‘passing’ bell and the old 11th is also hung in the Tower as the Sanctus bell.
We are very grateful to Colin Salter, who is currently researching the history of the SMLT Society. You can read his document here