GLASBURY MAN MADE CLYRO BELLS
There must have been great excitement in
Clyro in I708. The existing four bells in St Michael's Church
were recast hy Henry Williams. the bell founder from Glasbury,
into a ring of five bells. The work was apparently paid for by
the owners of two of the great houses in the parish Cabalva and
Little is known of the four bells that existed in Clyro before
Williams began his work, although they appear to have been larger
than the five bells cast from their metal. The four bells swung
side by side in a wooden frame in the tower of the church. This
frame was altered in 1708 to accommodate bells of smaller dimensions
and a fifh bell pit was added at right angles to the others.
Henry Williams made bells in the period between at least 1677
(when he cast two for the church of St Gwennog, Llanwenog, Cardiganshire)
and I719, when he cast bells for Crickadarn, Llanbedr Ystrad Yw
and Penderyn in Breconshire.
ln 1722 Williams made his will in which he described himnself
as "Henry Williams of ye pish of Glasbury in ye County of
Radnor Bellfounder". At that time Radnorshire extended across
the River Wye and included the area towards Little Lodge farm
( nowadays belonging to the Havards), Coed y Bolen Common (where
Glasbury school is situated) and the vicinity of Three Cocks.
In his will Williams left "unto Anne prichard my Daughter
all my rights and title unto all ye Leasehold Lands held by me
from Sr Edward Wms, of Gwernevett in the County of Brecon".
The Williams family of Gwernyfed were the main landowners of the
Glasbury area and their seat was the present Old Gwernvfed, in
Felindre. Henry Williams also left "all the rest and residue
of my psonall Estate unto Ann prichard". He made no specific
mention of the tools of his bell founding trade, but perhaps that
was because he was "sick of body" and no longer interested
in such matters.
Henry Williams marked many of his bells by casting a shield with
the capital letters H and W in the top bell and right hand corners
respectively. on either side of an open calipers that framed a
bell. Calipers were used by bell founders to measure widths and
were an important tool of their trade. He also cast a border of
flowers below the inscription line on some of his bells, as at
Most of the inscriptions on Williams' bells were in Latin. which
he did in wax letters that he then fitted onto the moulds of the
bells before pouring metal into those moulds. In many casees Williams
appears to have had dittculty in fixing the wax letters, and they
are not always straight or evenl The second bell at Llanwenog
(which no longer exists) bore the inscription GLORIA SIT DEO HENRICVS
WILLIAMS ME FECIT ANNO DOMINI 1677. One can imagine the relief
and pleasure, and even the pride, with which Williams fixed this
inscription on the bell. HENRY WILLIAMS I MADE [it] 1677.
On the fburth bell at Clyro, which still exists. Williams cast
the inscription 1708 GLORIA DEO PAX HOMINIBVS, which translates
as Glory to God. peaceto all men. On the second he cast an inscription
in English: CabALVA AND : LLOYNEY OF VS FOVR MADE FIVE H W 1708
:: Perhaps he thought it prudent to remind the donors that thev
had to pay him for his work!
The greatest number of bells cast by Williams as a ring appears
to have been the five bells at Clyro, two of which, the second
and fourth. still exist. The other three bells were recast in
1887 by John Warner and Sons of London, presumably because they
were cracked or out of tune.
Unfortunately one of Williams' existing bells at Clyro, the second
of the ring, is cracked slightly in the crown. Both it and the
other Williams' bell in the ring should really be attended to
by a professional bell hanger and engineer. The crown staples,
which pass through the top of the bells and from which the clappers
are suspended, need to be drilled out of the bells and to be replaced
by steel crown staples that do not rust. The existing staples
are of iron, which expands as it rusts and therefore cracks the
bronze bells. The crack in the second bell needs to be welded
by Soundweld, the only firm in Britain that specialises in repairing
bells by welding. Although at least thirty two bells are known
to have been cast by Williams, the site of his foundry has not
been located. Where was it? There is oral record that a foundry
used to exist at Pipton, beside the River Llynfi,just upstream
of Pipton farm house. Was that, perhaps, the site of Williams'
bell foundry? And if it was, how did Williams manage to transport
bells as far as Bleddfa in Radnorshire, Bettws in Carmarthenshire,
Penderyn in Breconshire and Mansell Gamage in Herefordshire? And
where did he acquire the tin and copper that were needed for the
production of bells. Above all, where did Williams learn his trade?
Parishioners of Clyro may take pride in the fact that their church
contains bells made in Wales in the early eighteenth century and
that those bells are still rung with reasonable regularity. Glasbury
folk may be proud that an inhabitant of their parish cast those
bells of Clyro. Now it is up to the Wye Valley Parishes to look
after those historic bells and to ensure that they continue to
sound God's message of salvation over our beautiful valley for
generations to come .