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 The Clock and Bells at Romsey Abbey

Play the above YouTube clip to hear the bells

The Abbey Clock


Romsey Abbey used to have a huge hand-wound turret clock, which was installed in 1809 (also 1860) and required a weekly climb of 151 steps to hand-crank the winding mechanism, the task of tending to the working of the clock has been voluntarily undertaken, since XXXX, by three generations of the Kersey family who originally hailed from Essex. The family opened up their clock and jewellery business in Romsey circa 1888; it closed in 2015.    


The Abbey clock was replaced in 1934 with a new electrically wound one, made by Messrs’ John Smith and Sons, Derby, Ltd and installed by Messrs. Mears and Stainbank. It was guaranteed not to vary by more than two seconds per week and had been ordered by F.W Kersey and Son, as the result of an anonymous donor.


The manufacture and installation took 14 months to complete, leaving the town without its usual timepiece for keeping appointments.


The clock was constructed along similar lines to the old one based upon a design by Lord Grimthorpe, which is fitted with his double three-legged gravity escapement, designed originally for the large clock at Westminster.


The movement is built on a massive horizontal bed frame situated in the ringing room directly below the dial and is housed in a substantial cupboard with glass doors. The wheels are fitted in such a way for easy access and to allow any single one to be removed without interfering with the others.


The wheels , which are all of phosphor-bronze, have their teeth cut from solid metal, thus ensuring very smooth running with the minimum of friction, silver steel pins are used in the lantern’s pinions for the same reason.


The large wheels in the quarter and striking sides of the movement are 18 inches diameter and the going main wheel has a diameter of 14 inches. The ding-dong quarter chimes are struck on two bells of the existing peal in the Abbey tower and the hours are sounded on the largest bell.


The old dial was replaced with an entirely new one measuring 10 feet in diameter, constructed of a heavy cast iron, and backed with copper plates, which with the hands and other fittings weighed 14 cwt. The clock was expected to last at least 100 years.


The above was gleaned from a February 16th 1934 report in the Romsey Advertiser. Roy Romsey




The Abbey Bells


Extracts from:- Bell's Cathedrals (text only) or (with images) by Rev. Thomas Perkins (1907)

".....At one time there was a detached campanile (located off Church Road about 50 metres north-east of the north transept) for the bells of Romsey. This was pulled down in 1625 and the bells placed in the wooden cage erected for them on the roof of the central tower. At this time there were six bells only, but in 1791 they were, according to one account, taken down and sold, and a fresh peal of eight bells cast for the church. According to another account the six bells were melted down, fresh metal added, and from this the larger peal of eight bells was cast. It is said to be in perfect condition now, the tenor bell weighing 26 cwt....." (since reduced to 22cwt in 2007 when a crown on the bell was removed)


"......The tower of Romsey was at one time a lantern, open to the roof, but when the bells were placed in the wooden cage on the roof, a ringing floor was inserted below......."


"......The curious wooden erection on the top of the tower, somewhat resembling a hen coop or gigantic lobster pot, was added in comparatively recent times to contain the bells; drawings made at the beginning of the nineteenth century do not show it, but, those made about the middle of the century do. It is ugly, and adds nothing to the dignity of the church; probably the tower was originally crowned by a pyramidal roof which gave it the appearance of height so much required......"


The bells and framing have been replaced, restored or refurbished a number of times over the centuries including the recasting of three bells in 1932 and the latest occasion being in 2007 when Whites of Appleton, Oxon carried out major works. They took down the bells and framing from the tower and transported them to their works in order to undertake the necessary retuning of the bells and repairs to the frame. The bells and frame were then transported back to Romsey Abbey and the repaired framing was reinstalled back in the bell cage on top of the tower. During this period the bells were laid out in the south aisle of the abbey before finally being hauled back up the tower, through a trapdoor above the crossing, and rehung on their frames.  


Extract from Wikipedia......The church's bells were once housed in a detached campanile. After its demolition in 1625, the set of six bells was transferred to a wooden belfry on top of the central tower. They were replaced by a new set of eight in 1791; the heaviest, the tenor, weighing 26 cwt.[11] Three of the bells were recast in 1932. The bells and their eighteenth century bell frame were restored in 2007, when removing the crown reduced the weight of the tenor to 22 cwt. The Bells are now known across the region for being one of the finest rings of 8 bells.


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