Bell Graffito, North Aisle

High up in the arch in front of the doors leading to the Choir Vestry and Kitchen, this little bit of ‘unauthorised carving’ is difficult to spot -but a pair of binoculars will reveal a rather nice outline of a bell, complete with clapper, and the inscription ‘T Hedderly 1777’.

It is possible that the T Hedderly mentioned was actually one of the team responsible for casting the bells at that time. See, for example, this article describing the bells at Cotgrave, where ‘Thomas Hedderly’ is listed as ‘founder’ (i.e., one who runs a bell foundry).

Similarly, in The Church Bells of Leicestershire, published in 1876, there is reference (page 9) to:

Thomas Hedderly, a founder at Nottingham, in the last century [i.e., the 18th Century], is said to have joined in prayer with his men before any important casting…

Judging from what is apparent in this arch, it seems he did rather more than just praying in the conventional sense!

That same book from 1876 also goes on to explain (on page 89):

Thomas Hedderly’s (of Nottingham) name appears in Leicestershire from 1749 to 1784. He was however casting bells eight years earlier. The name “Thomas Hedderly” on the Leicestershire bells probably represents father and son: the father died about 1778, the son in 1785. The elder left four sons -Thomas (just mentioned), George, John and Samuel; the first of them -George Hedderly- has bells in Leicestershire dating from 1787 to 1791, a few years after which date he emigrated to America.

So it’s not entirely clear whether we’re dealing with Thomas Hedderly senior or junior here, though since Hedderly senior died in 1778, it seems more likely to have been  the junior Hedderly playing around at height the previous year. Also note that both Thomas Hedderlys were bell ringers, as well as founders: they are listed as having both rang in 2 peals of Grandsire Triples at St. Peter’s on Christmas Day 1780 and again on 12th February, 1782. Both are also listed in the Sherwood Youth peal book.

Either way, it’s interesting to go on to discover how his relative George went on to become an American citizen and set up a bell foundry in New York and, later, Philadelphia.

We are grateful to archaeologist Darren Matthews for permission to use his photograph of Mr. Hedderly’s handiwork -and for his drawing it to the attention of your author in the first place!