The Long and Winding Steps

Shoreham’s church of St Mary De Haura has been a landmark for many centuries. For over 250 years the bells suspended in the tower belfry have been rung from the Ringing Room many feet below. The belfry, the ringing room, the clock movement and the tower roof are only accessible via a very narrow spiral staircase in the North East corner of the tower.

Note: video was taken using a remote 360 camera & telescopic pole safely from within the tower parapet.

Hamish McKenzie is the current St. Mary’s Bellringer’s Tower Captain – and one of his additional roles for many years is to ascend the narrow steps to raise the flag on national days and state occasions. were granted access to accompany Hamish to the roof to raise the flag of St. George to mark St. George’s Day 2022.

You can see panoramic views of Shoreham from the tower via 4 large 360 images for you to interactively explore here. Note all images and video were taken using a remote 360 camera on a telescopic pole safely from within the confines of the tower parapet.

The trek up the tower also presented the opportunity to compare the modern views with those photographs taken by previous generations.   Those then and now comparisons with 100 years inbetween can be seen here.    

The Tower

Note the upper stage staircase protuberance on the NE corner of the tower. In this early 1900’s photo this appears to show cracks to the staircase and has been butressed. These have been removed since. ©SAS Marlipins collection
Staircase structure graphic. Orig. Photo © Geoff Henson Flickr

The Tower was built in two stages from c1130. The video gives us a fascinating opportunity to see the constructional details of the staircase that would otherwise pass you by, and shows the distinct 2 stages. The lower stage, upto the Ringing room, is enclosed entirely inside the stone column supporting the tower. The narrower stairs in the upper stage shows evidence of numerous repairs and modifications to the structure over the previous 900 years. The upper stairs have 2 slot windows, visible from outside.

You can also see that the transepts originally had steeper roofs, as is apparent from the lower stage of the tower.

The top of the tower is substantial in construction and it is speculated that it would have once supported a spire. Whilst there are no known records to support this, there is a wooden Fireplace piece (in Marlipins) that shows a representation of c1605 with a knave and spire. The tower was reported as damaged by subsidence by 1895 and repairs effected soon after.

The clockfaces are relatively recent additions, with the South face being installed initially and many years later the other 3 were added.

The Ringing Room

The Belfry

In 1896, St. Mary’s old bells dating from 1767 were melted down and recast, with the exception of the present 7th bell, to make a ring of six bells, and a further two bells were added in the following year. In 1983 the bells were re-tuned and re-hung by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which had been in existence for over 400 years and has dealt with the casting of the 1767 ring and all work on the bells since that date. In 2017 the Whitechapel Foundry cast its last bell and closed for good.

The bells and Ringing Room are discussed in an interview here:

18 minutes duration, interview at 2 mins, with three sequences of the bells.
This video from Chris Dowling, recorded in 2016, shows the belfry in operation and the wondrous sound so familiar to Shoreham residents.

The View from the Roof

All video and images ©2022 unless stated otherwise.