Museum and church mark 200 years of Waterloo bells

Two hundred years ago, Holy Trinity Church, in Cuckfield, installed two new bells in its bell tower.

Thursday, 1st October 2015, 12:22 pm
The Waterloo Bells

They were installed as the country celebrated Wellington’s trouncing of Napolean at the Battle of Waterloo and are still known as the Waterloo Bells.

To mark the bells’ bicentennial, the church will be opening its bell tower to visitors while Cuckfield Museum has launched a new display, called Ringing The Changes.

A suitably mysterious-looking stone staircase winds its way up to the bell tower where you find yourself surrounded by ancient boards bearing the names of former bell ringers, and the particular peals that have been rung, going back hundreds of years.


Museum curator Phillipa Malins said: “What is so interesting for us is that so many of the surnames were still known in the second half of the 20th century – names like Knight, Webber, Leney and Jenner – most are on the World War One board downstairs in the Queens Hall, which records all the names of the men who went to the war.”

Since being installed in 1815, the Waterloo Bells have witnessed many changes at the church.

In the mid 19th century, the Rev TA Maberly employed GF Bodley, leading architect of the Oxford Movement, to transform the church.

A great deal of the dark wood which would have filled the church was removed including the old triple decker pulpit, the high box pews and the gallery around the side of the church.

Steps leading to the bell tower

The stained glass designer CE Kempe was employed to paint the walls and ceiling of the chancel and later the ceiling of the nave.

One of the displays at the museum includes some of Kempe’s paintbrushes, which were found on high ledges in the nave during conservation work in 2002.

Phillipa said: “The church certainly had a very different feeling after 1886 when the work was complete – it glowed with colour and was much less dark and congested.”

There was more change in 2012 when the Victorian bench pews were replaced by individual carved wooden seats which can be moved according to the occasion.


The chancel screen was moved under the bell tower, opening up the view of the choir and the great east window to the congregation. The old wooden floor was taken up and a new under floor heating system installed.

While the heating system was being fitted, a number of barrel vaulted tombs were found, all thought to date from the early 17th century.

None were disturbed and, although the church has a list of likely names for the burials, none could be identified.

The belltower will be open to visitors on October 10 from 10am-noon.

Barrel vault

Cuckfield Museum is open from 10am-12.30pm on Wednesday and 10am-4pm on Friday and Saturday.

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