The bells in the church tower are of course mostly very old. Two if not three were placed there in the 17th Century. There are six, the details of which are as follows:-
1. With a diameter of 28″ and weighing 4¾ cwt, it is inscribed “BRYANVS ELDRIDGE ME FECIT 1656.”
2. The maker was believed to be called Watts. It has a 29″ diameter, weighs 5 cwt and is engraved “GOD SAVE THE KING 1634”.
3. The maker and date are unknown. It weighs 6½ cwt, is 33″ in diameter and is engraved with “-|- JESVS BE OVRE SPEDE”.
4. Engraved JOHN RUDHALL GLOUCESTER FECIT 1825, it is 36¼” in diameter and weighs 9 cwt.
During the tower restoration of 1910 it was found that a new bell frame was needed and the bells were taken down and re-tuned by Taylor’s Bell Foundry of Loughborough. At the same time two new ones were added:-
5. A bell, subscribed for locally, was installed in 1910. It is 26″ in diameter and weighs 4 cwt. It is inscribed “John Taylor Loughborough, 1909 G.M.Edmonds Vicar, E.H.Stoneley Leader of the Bell ringers, RISE HE CALLETH THEE”.
6. A treble bell given by the Reverend W.W.Worthington of Netherseal in 1910 is 24½” in diameter, weighs 3 cwt and has the inscription: “presented by W.W.Worthington 1910 John Taylor & Co Loughborough, ,REJOICE AND WEEP WITH THEM THAT DO REJOICE AND WEEP”.
An old custom of ringing the church bells in commemoration of the deliverance from The Gunpowder Plot is recorded in church records of 1696. This was a long standing arrangement for it still appears in 1814 when, on each occasion, the ringers were paid the sum of half a crown (2/6d or 12p in today’s money). A similar payment is shown for Christmas ringing.
The church chest is marked with the words “WcB STOCKE CHEST TwO” and the date of 1636, though it is thought to be much older. The initials are probably those of the churchwardens William Bradgate and Thomas Odam. Made of oak, the chest originally had three locks and held the Parish Records.
The Archdeacon’s Court ordered the repair of the church roof in 1586 following an earthquake in 1580 which had destroyed the top of the steeple. It appears that this was done.
The spire was once more partly rebuilt in 1788. Repairs were begun on June 8th and lasted just three weeks. It was taken down eleven feet and rebuilt by fifteen feet by Cheshire, the Architect. It was “in such danger as it was feared it would fall and crush the church”. Cheshire was to complete the work and find the materials for a fee of 17 guineas.
The earthquake of 1580 was not the only one in the area and it is lucky for the inhabitants that repairs were done for Hall quotes from Nichol’s History of Leicestershire that:-
“A shock of earthquake was very sensibly felt hereon Wednesday 18th November 1795 which affected an extent of the country several miles in circumference.” The writer is informed that in the early 1990s a mild ‘shake’ rumbled through Stoke Golding, thus perpetuating the 200 year quake.
The Parish Officers were the Constable, the Churchwardens, the Surveyor of the Highways and the Overseers of the Poor. They kept detailed records of moneys collected and spent, for example:-
1694 “For breaking up the ground in the chancel for six graves, to Richard Good the Churchwarden £2.0.0d. For stones to make the towne well 12s. 1d”.
1695 “To Mr Le Grand and Mr Wyat, Overseers of the Highways, Paid in 25 days for 165 labourers 8d a labourer coming to £5.4s 2d. More, to 325 loads of gravil at 3d a load £4.4s 3d. More, to 3 labourers for sweeping ye streets 8s. 0d. To chitting ye wheelwright 6d”.
1696 “That only 2 pennys a dozen shall be paid for sparrow heads”.
1780 “For tow days work of spraddin gravil 1s. 4d. For ale at Chamberlain’s 2s 2d”.
The cemetery on Hinckley Road was purchased in 1883 and is some one and a half acres in extent. The cost of the land was £205. It is said that it was not generally consecrated until 1917, a fact which seems to be borne out by the fact that the records show some older burials in non-consecrated ground. To date some 1100 people have been buried within its confines.
Crown Hill to the north and west of the Church has also seen its share of bodies. This was the area of land occupied by the victorious army of King Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth. It is recorded that “in this field there have been dug up many human skeletons, which indeed are very common especially upon breaking of fresh ground”. Though there have been no recent reports of such finds one has to contemplate whether they were the remains of members of Henry’s injured and dying followers or whether they were Richard III’s men, captured and executed as they fled towards Stoke Golding from the field of battle.
The Archdeacon of Leicester visited Stoke Golding on August 20th 1832 to make examination of the Church. His report on the village of 543 inhabitants made quite scathing reading. Should we think to complain of today’s poor state of repair and maintenance – read on.
“The lower part of the spire has been cramped with iron. The east end of the chancel bulges out and is in a dangerous state. The Church is much neglected. The brick floor of the chancel has fallen in and must be repaired instantly. The bible of 1727 is a little torn and wants mending. The Churchyard is kept in the worst state of any I have yet seen. It is full of nettles. Roads are through every part of it and the fences are bad. The old gates want mending and painting.
The Church ways are kept in a very slovenly manner. A paved footpath is full of weeds. No trees. No schoolroom in it. No ancient cross. I have never visited any place which was so much neglected as Stoke Golding”.
The inside of the church was little better, there being a complaint to the Bishop of a Hinckley vicar who held office from 1778 to 1804. He sent a curate to perform a burial who was so drunk he hardly managed the service, referring to the body as brother instead of sister. The vicar shortly afterwards forgot a christening leaving the parties waiting at the church while he had dinner nearby. The congregation complained he gabbled the services so that only two or three of them remained and the “Dissenters in the village are gaining ground.” A complainant said that a public footpath passed through the church from the north to the south doors and the labouring men ate their meals and drank their beer in the pews. The stones of the fabric of the church were the common grindstones for their implements.
Cameos of village life abound in the records of the Archdeacon’s Court whose methods were stern. By statute, every person over 16 years of age had to attend their own parish church on Sundays and they could be fined £20 a month for failing to do so.
1585. The Jurors say that the common stocks in Stoke are insufficient. Therefore they have a day to repair them before the feast of the Ascension of our Lord next, under penalty.
1585. The inhabitants of Stoke for the greater part have offended by not using their hats on Sundays, therefore they have put themselves in the mercy of our lady the Queen. And by the discretion of the court they are fined viiid.(8d) This little episode of village life shows a refusal by many to conform with a statute of Queen Elizabeth’s time which required everyone over the age of seven, with few exceptions, to wear caps of wool on the Sabbath or Holy days, this being enforced to promote the woollen industry.
1587. Stokegoldinge. Francis Kyn absents himself from church and lays violent hands upon a man in church after divine service. The Lord of the Court ordered a penance.
15th April 1599. At Stoke, Joyce Hall of Nuneaton is pregnant. The Lord decreed a fine of 7s and that she should be excommunicated.
24th May 1620. Edward Heywood appeared for attempting the chastity of the wife of John Bond of Higham. On 28th May he appeared with four neighbours and made oath he was innocent and the neighbours declared on oath they believed him. The Lord of the court declared the accusation purged but forbade him from consorting with the said woman except in market places and in public.