The Society’s archive holds account books for the majority of the years between 1818 and 1957. Richard Miller was the Society’s Treasurer par excellence, keeping meticulous and beautifully scripted records for the years 1818-1857 (with a gap between 1846-49). The books are a fascinating record of the members, their attendance record, ringing occasions, outings, income and expenses.


For every account year, each ringer had a page in the accounts book detailing their forfeits; 2d for non-attendance at practice night or 4d for missing the monthly meeting at the "club house". This meeting took place on the first Thursday of each month and was initially held at the The Compass. The Articles of Agreement stipulated that each member had to spend 4d (probably enough for 3-4 pints) in the club house whether they were present or not. This ensured that the public house was guaranteed sufficient income to reserve a private room for the evening to act as the Society's club house. On special ringing occasions the innkeeper cooked and served a meal, the meat being bought by the ringers direct from the butcher.

Richard Miller's forfeits for the year 1818-19; – 15s 8d. (Click on image for larger version)

Richard Miller's forfeits for 1818-19


Income came from the following main sources:

  • The churchwardens – an invoice was presented in June each year (a copy of a number of these for the years between 1826 and 1845 can be found in the churchwardens accounts). This typically covered the following events, collectively termed in the accounts as "King's [or Queen's] Days and Bishop's":
    • Anniversary of King’s / Queen’s Coronation (1 guinea)
    • Anniversary of Powder Plot – 5th November (1 guinea)
    • Anniversary of the King’s / Queen's Accession (1 guinea)
    • Anniversary of the Restoration of King Charles - 29th May (1 guinea)
    • King’s / Queen’s birthdays (1 guinea)
    • Prince’s / Princess’ christening (1 guinea)
    • Birth of Prince / Princess (1 guinea)
    • Funeral ‘peals’ (e.g. Duke of York – 20 Jan 1827) (5 shillings)
    • Bishop’s Visitation (1 guinea)
    • Ringing in the new year (5 shillings).
  • The mayor – ringing for Mayor’s Day – 9th November (£1 11s 6d).
  • Ad hoc ringing for events, usually weddings – Lord Braybrooke regularly contributed a sum of £3 which covered weddings, christenings and other family occasions. It seems that only the most well-healed could afford to have bells rung at their wedding - there were typically only three or four rung weddings a year.
  • Thomas Turner Charity – £2 13s 4d (see Great Ringing Day).

Further to its normal Sunday service duties the Society also rang for two other specific occasions:

  • Christmas Eve
  • Harvest Peal  (afternoon of first Sunday in September).

We know from a note at the rear of the service sheet for the 1914 augmentation service (and repeated in Cambridge Weekly News for Friday 3 July 1914), that the bells were used for other customs as listed below:

  • Death Knell; tolled on the tenor – 3 x 3 for male, 3 x 2 for female; muffled peals for ringers or special persons – this custom appears to still have been practiced in 1914.
  • Curfew bell; rung on the 5th bell – this was typically rung at 20:00, the day of the month being tolled. It was discontinued sometime after Rev. Clutton’s resignation in 1844.
  • Pancake bell; also rung on the 5th – this was usually rung around midday on Shrove Tuesday. The tradition was discontinued in Rev. Beasley’s time (1844-68).
  • Gleaning bell; – this was rung to signal the start of gleaning (collecting left-over crops) each day during the harvest but was discontinued sometime before 1900 “because the ringers received nothing”.
  • Fire bell; – this was done by chiming the 1st and 2nd bells quickly to summon assistance and warn the community in event of fire. It was discontinued in 1880s. [Until 1850, the churchwardens had financial responsibility for the town's fire brigade, at which point it passed to the borough council.]

It is likely that the sexton was responsible for the ringing of the above - Richard Bush and later Samuel Francis were both ringers. We have a record of Samuel Francis' annual invoices to the churchwardens from 1820 to 1848 which included £1 1s 0d for the "Curfew bell" (often termed "ringing the bell"), 10s 0d for the "Gleaners bell" and £1 11s 6d for "Chiming on Prayer days and Sundays". He must have also been responsible for maintaining the bells as he invoiced for "bell stays" (generally 2 to 3 per year!), "hog sane (one assumes a form of pig's grease) for the gudgeons" and for "a job to the bells". We have no record of the purchase of bell ropes.


Outgoings can be grouped as follows:

  • Cost of making up the guaranteed spend and other ad hoc expenses at the “club house” – a local hostelry, usually The Compass, The Crosskeys, Hopwards, The Dragon or Hoops. This formed by far the biggest expenditure.
  • For ringing ye bell” – 4s per annum was paid (from 1818-52 to the sextant and ringer Samuel Francis) for ringing up the 4th bell (referred to as the "quarter bell" - the clock had ting-tang chimes until 1875) each Tuesday a quarter of an hour prior to the other ringers arrival for practice – one assumes that the rest of the bells were left up.
  • Candles; presumably for lighting the ringing chamber (which until 1875 was the base of the tower).
  • Treasurer’s “to hand” expenses.
  • And from around 1825, outing expenses.
It seems clear that the cost of maintaining the bells or the installation does not involve the ringers.

Ringers Accounts for year 1818-19; showing income of £24 3s 6d and expenses of £3 7s 8d. The balance of £20 15s 10d is divided by 11 ringers – giving £1 17s 8d each. (Click on image for larger version)

Ringers accounts for 1818-19

Members Dividend

The outgoings were subtracted from the income. The total amount for that year's forfeits were then added and whole divided by the number of ringers in the Society and this was then paid (less their own forfeit) as a dividend share to the members on Anniversary Day (27th June – now Great Ringing Day). The dividend, often in excess of £2, was not an insubstantial amount for those days – sufficient to buy perhaps 400 or more pints of beer!

Ringers dividend share for year 1818-19; – now including a share of forfeits of 6s 5d per head, giving a total of £2 4s 1d each. (Click on image for larger version)

Ringers share for 1818-19


Richard Miller's accounts list the destination for each year's annual outing – this was to a town or village in Essex or the surrounding counties of Suffolk, Herts. or Cambs. For 1824 we have a detailed breakdown of the expenses for the trip to Waltham Abbey. It would seem that nine ringers hired a coach and horses for what must have been a day’s outing to Waltham Abbey (recently (1820) augmented to 10) which included breakfast and two dinners along with a steady supply of beer and “liquor”. The overall cost was just short of £1 per head – i.e. about half of the Society’s annual dividend.

August 9th 1824; Outing to Waltham Abbey – detailed expenses and allocation to ringers. (Click on images for larger versions)

1824 Outing to Waltham Abbey - expenses 1824 Outing to Waltham Abbey - allocation


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