The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History (OCMCH)

Promoting historic links between Oxford Brookes University and the Methodist Church through archives, artworks, publications and research.

Centre – 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire of London and the Harcourt Hill Bell


The Chapel, Oxford Brookes University, Harcourt Hill Campus

The bell that now hangs at Harcourt Hill is a seventeenth-century bell originally from All Hallows by the Tower in London, and has a notable history. The bell was cast in the 1650s following an explosion that damaged the tower in 1650, when some barrels of gunpowder stored in the churchyard ignited. It hung in the tower from which Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London spread across the city of London. In the next few years the tower was rebuilt and new bells installed in 1659. Almost certainly the Harcourt Hill bell was the sanctus bell, from its fairly high tone. It rings every morning for morning prayer led by the Methodist chaplain on the campus.

Although the campus was built between 1956 and 1959, Westminster College brought to the campus a bell given to it by Dr Phillip (“Tubby”) Clayton. Clayton was an Anglican parson, well known for founding TocH, an international charity that emerged from a soldiers’ club in Belgium during World War I (at Talbot House, and named after its call sign T. H.). TocH became famous for its work with leprosy sufferers.

For forty years, from 1922, Clayton was vicar of All Hallows by the Tower, an historic London parish. In 1940 All Hallows was bombed during the Blitz and almost completely destroyed; only the steeple remained. Between 1940 and 1958 Clayton worked to rebuild his church. He did so with the aid of the Canadians who adopted All Hallows as their own. Canadian wood was used for the interior and pews of the new church and a Canadian, J. W. McConnell of Montreal, gave a carillion of eighteen new bells. Clayton therefore had the old bells of All Hallows spare and gave one to the governors of Westminster College to bring to Oxford. The governors’ minutes for 6 November 1958 record the gift to the College of ‘a fine seventeenth century bell’ from Clayton.


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This entry was posted on September 3, 2016 by and tagged , .

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