The Kilmacow Bell

Linking Ireland and Harpenden

Kilmacow plaque now in Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford
Susan Ellis
The Kilmacow bell and hammer hanging in the pit of the treble bell
Torstein Strandenes
Harrington,_Latham_&_Co advertisement
Wexford Standard report of donation of bell to Kilmacow church
Susan Ellis
A1890 advertisement for Harrington's Tubular Bells in The Gaurdian
Wexford Standard -Report of the move of the bell to Wexford Cathedral
Susan Ellis
Plaque recording presentation of Kilmacorw bell to Waterford Cathedral
Susan Ellis
Marianne Warde
from reproduction in Vol V (Schools) of Wheathhampstead & Harpenden
The Poer family at Kilcronagh House
Image courtesy Waterford County Museum
The gates of St Mochaus church
Susan Ellis
An old photo of the cottage (still there) next to St Mochau's just showing the tower of the church.

Introduction

In August 2023  the H&DLHS were offered by Susan Ellis, secretary of the Waterford Association of Change Ringers, a photo of a plaque commemorating the donation of a bell to St Mochua’s Church, Kilmacow  in memory of Marianne Warde of Bennetts Harpenden.  This was intriguing and we were kindly sent a scan of the plaque (see right), a video of the restored bell being rung and a history of the bell by Torstein Strandenes, Steeple Keeper for Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford,  ROI where the ‘bell’ (chime) now hangs.  Susan and Torstein are both bell ringers at the Cathedral (Church of Ireland) which has a peal of 8 bells for full circle ringing.

To hear the sound of the Kilmacow bell, click on the red arrow above the image of the plaque

The history of the bell

Torstein Strandenes, Steeple Keeper, Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, ROI

There is a rope with a “sally” (multicoloured woven handle) hanging in the Cathedral entry-way next to the plaque indicating dates for when the so-called Kilmacow Bell was first taken into use in the church where it was originally installed and then the re-hanging of the bell when it was transferred to the Waterford Cathedral.

The bell was originally donated to the Kilmacow Church probably as a substitute for the fact that the church was not designed to house heavy bells for full circle ringing in a belfry. The donor of the bell was Emily Frances Lloyd de la Poer, née Warde, who married in 1873 Raymond de la Poer of Kilcronagh (1846-1922), a younger brother of Edmond de la Poer of Gurteen, Kilsheelan.

The Kilmacow bell is not really a “bell” as we normally envisage an item called a bell. This “bell” is actually a chime, and very simply consist of a length of galvanized pipe with a rudimentary fastening mechanism on the top and is meant to be chimed by striking a hammer against it. Years ago, a company called Harington, Latham & Co made and sold chimes called Harrington’s Patent Tubular Bells. These were meant to be hung in frames holding up to 8 chimes as depicted here in their advertisement. The bells were connected by ropes to a board in the ringing room called an Ellacombe console, and the bells were chimed by pulling on the ropes that were fixed to the console, and the hammers that sounded the bells  suspended in the frame so that they were “pulled back” in readiness for the next pull.

The “bell” now in Waterford Cathedral was meant as the first donation in the hope that other Kilmacow parishioners would follow suit and donate the remaining bells so that a full ring of chimes could be installed. Apparently that did not happen so the chime we are using in Waterford was the only one bought from Harrington.

When transferred to Christ Church the Kilmacow bell was originally hung over the full-circle ringing bells, higher up than it is now and when it was rehung in 1944. It then had to be taken down years later due to extensive repairs to the wooden frame in the belfry and was not rehung following the repairs.

Rehanging the bell

About a year ago it was agreed that volunteers among the ringers would rehang the “bell” so that it could be chimed from the entry-way again. It now hangs inside the wooden frame where the lightest bell (the treble) is mounted. There were no other parts of the mechanism salvaged either from the original installation nor the rehanging in 1944, so the current location and functioning is entirely the result of hours and hours spent on finally finding a viable location, creating a working mechanism and then creating a rope run from the hammer to the entry-way. The best location we could find and the simplest and most efficient chiming mechanism can be seen in the photo.

Since this is a chime and not a “proper” bell, the sound is much softer and can at this point only be heard when standing outside. We are currently assessing the viability of rehanging the chime from the catwalk in the belfry which will see it much closer to the louvre and therefore make it possible to hear not just immediately outside, but in a much wider area.

Marianne Warde and (Emily) Frances & Raymond De La Poer

Susan Ellis and others

Marianne

Marianne (the correct spelling ) in whose memory the bell was donated, lived in Harpenden all her life where she had been very active in ensuring that children from poor backgrounds, received a good education and she was highly regarded for her charitable work. She was born in 1813, a sister of John Bennet Lawes; married Charles Warde of Welcombe, Warwickshire in 1834 but the marriage ended in divorce. She died in 1891.

Frances

Frances was Marianne’s daughter and she married Raymond de la Poer (a Catholic) of Kilcronagh House on May 6th 1873, in the parish church of St Nicholas, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

She came from an Anglican background and worshipped in St Mochua’s Church, Kilmacow (Lower) which was a Church of Ireland denomination (in Irish Cill Mochua, meaning St Mochua’s Church) and on her mother’s death she donated the tubular bell to St Mochau’s .

Kathleen Laffan in her book ‘The History of Kilmacow’ (published in 1998) says that the couple (Raymond and Frances) purchased Kilronagh House and about one hundred acres around 1879.  They had no children.  During the troubles the family car was burned and fearing for their safety they moved to England.  Frances died on January 22nd 1934 in her 90th year, at Boscombe, Hampshire leaving an estate with a gross value £66,797.

Raymond de la Poer

Information from ‘The Peerage’ website and Ancestry  

Raymond de la Poer was born on 6 March 1846.  He was the son of John William Power -titular* 17th Baron le Power and Coroghmore, co. Waterford  and Frances Power.
He gained the rank of officer in the 15th Regiment of Foot (now part of the Yorkshire Regiment) and held the offices of Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace for County Kilkenny. He was also the High Sheriff in 1889.  He died at Durrants  Hotel, London on 2nd  May 1922 leaving £1309 17s. 3d.

* this barony was not recognised officially; his ancestor had been outlawed for his support of James II.

St Mochua’s Church, Kilmacow

The church was built in1818 and was in use until 1930; it was deconsecrated  and demolished in 1951 when the parish was amalgamated with Fiddown. 

Torstein and Susan visited the old graveyard, which is still well tended, and happened to meet Tim, who was living in the adjacent cottage and he produced the picture of his house showing the church tower to the side. St Mochua’s church is only marked on old OS maps and for this reason many residents are unaware of the former church ever having been there.

  • Acknowledgements
    Harpenden and District Local History Society
    Dr John Jenkyn talk to Harpenden History Society 24th May 2016
    Julian Walton, local historian, Waterford
    John Daniels, Waterford bellringer who sleuthed some de la Poer family history and found Census and other historical records
    Eric Good, Waterford bellringer who quoted from The History of Kilmacow by Kathleen Laffan
    Wilfred Baker, for general contributions and help
    Waterford Museum for the photograph of the gathering at Kilcronagh House

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