About the Bells at St James
We have six bells at St James’ – the largest of which, called the ‘tenor’, is eight hundredweight (or about 400 kg) of bellmetal, an alloy of copper and tin. The five largest bells were cast in 1792 by the well known J.Warner bellfoundry of London The lightest bell, or ‘treble’ was provided in 1885. This was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Both the treble and tenor bells are in a way very special to Finchampstead, bearing the names of past Rectors at this church; the inscription on the treble refers to the Rector’s 80th birthday in 1885, and on the tenor is found the Rector’s name of 1792 – both of whom are named the Rev. E. St John!
The five older bells were cast and tuned as a ‘ring’ of bells – and are now rare as there are only about 20 bells left by the original John Warner. They are among the earliest ‘rings’ bearing his name, whose company survived (albeit in several stages), well into the twentieth century. The bells were completely overhauled by specialists at Whitechapel Foundry in 2005 and rehung by them.
The bells hang in a metal frame built in 1909 by Messrs Webb and Bennett, of Kiddlington, Oxfordshire. Before that there would have been a traditional wooden frame, but not much is known of that now. The present frame rests on three longitudinal beams set into the east and west walls of the tower.
The view from the tower
The view from the top of the St James’ tower is spectacular. To the south lies the River Blackwater, a tributary of the Loddon, and on the horizon the forests of north-east Hampshire. To the north is the town of Wokingham and parts of Barkham. To the east several high buildings of Bracknell can be seen. To the west lies Farley Hill, Arborfield Green and Arborfield and to the north-west lies the outskirts of Reading.