Skip to: ContentEnd


My home on the Web

Wotton-under-Edge Branch
Dursley (St James the Great)

St James the Great, Dursley - click for a larger version

Name or Dedication: St James the Great

Location: Dursley, Gloucestershire

Grid Reference: ST756981

The earliest record of a church in Dursley is in 1221. This church was enlarged and rebuilt (with the exception of the tower) in 1320, the tower being rebuilt later in 1480 on the foundations of the earlier, smaller one. The new tower had a spire and contained a clock and bells, which were recast on site into a ring of six by Roger Purdue I in 1639 following a failed attempt to repair a crack.

Also in 1639 a Sanctus bell was purchased for £3 19s 6d (plus 1s 6d delivery) and hung in a bellcote at the east end of the south aisle. However, when the bells were silenced by Cromwell in 1645 the Sanctus was removed to the Parish Chest, from where it was pawned in 1647 for £1 5s 9d. Cromwell's downfall in 1661 meant the bells could ring out once more for Coronation Day, but the short-lived Sanctus remained silent until it was finally sold in 1694 for £2 2s 6d.

On 7th January 1699 the tower and spire fell during ringing, fortunately falling away from the church but taking the lives of several ringers. The bells were probably being rung to celebrate the completion of repairs to the church roof. The clock and five largest bells survived the disaster, although some of the bells' canons were broken. They were hung in a temporary wooden tower at the Church House in 1701, and were ringing again for Guy Fawkes Night (5th November) in 1703. The church tower was rebuilt without a spire in 1708–10, and a new clock and Rudhall treble were purchased in 1711.

The ring of six was recast into the previous ring of eight in G by Thomas Mears II in 1824. These bells were recast into the present ring of eight in 1904, and were hung with new fittings on plain bearings with steel headstocks and Hastings stays in a new cast iron frame on RSJs by John Taylor & Co. They were rehung on ball bearings by John Taylor & Co. in 1977-9. The tenor was formerly chimed with an Ellacombe hammer from the Choir Vestry in the ground floor of the tower, but this is now unused. The Ringing Room was originally in the ground floor, but in 1967 a gallery was installed in memory of Hubert George Cuff.

In the chamber above the Ringing Room is a clock by Smith of Derby, presented by Mrs Eliza Eyre in 1905. It was originally weight-driven and hand-wound but is now driven directly by an electric motor. It plays Cambridge chimes on the quarter hours, and every three hours from midnight it triggers an electrically-driven chiming drum in the chamber above. Given by public subscription, this plays a different tune each day of the week. The clock's dials are on the south and west louvres of the belfry.

Bells hung for full-circle ringing

The bells of St James the Great, Dursley
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
15-0-14 28¼ inE John Taylor & Co. 1904
25-3-04 29¼ inD# John Taylor & Co. 1904
36-1-02 31¼ inC# John Taylor & Co. 1904
47-0-11 33¾ inB John Taylor & Co. 1904
58-3-04 36½ inA John Taylor & Co. 1904
69-3-21 38 inG# John Taylor & Co. 1904
713-0-18 42¼ inF# John Taylor & Co. 1904
819-2-09 48½ inE John Taylor & Co. 1904

Source: Bell data from documents in Dursley Ringing Room, prepared by John Taylor & Co, and Dove's Guide. Information from "Dursley and its Neighbourhood" (Revd John Henry Blunt, 1877), the website of St James the Great, Dursley (formerly at, and Dursley, Gloucestershire – A Local History Guide.

Where the exact weight of a bell is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.