A few miles south of Lostwithiel in mid-Cornwall stands the church of St.Veep. It is the parish church of the greater part of the beautiful and much visited village of Lerryn.
In the tower of the church there is a ring of bells of a unique kind. They are maiden bells, a virgin peel. That is, they have never had to be tuned.
The casting of bells is an empirical one. You can never quite calculate the note of the bell you are casting, and nowadays the tuning is necessary for tonal purposes as well as to fit the note to the peal.
The old founders labored to cast bells which needed no tuning, which was then a noisy and (to the bell) a dangerous practice. The bells of St. Veep are thought to be the only complete ringable peal of six, in the whole country, and perhaps the world, to come from moulds in perfect tune.
They were cast in 1770 by the Pennington Brothers, who did so much work for Cornish Towers in the eighteenth century. There is an old broadsheet in St. Veep church describing the casting of the bells in a meadow opposite the church “in the stillness of the night”. This was to prevent any risk of damaging the cooling metal. Pennington’s joy at casting so perfect a ring made him exclaim that he had never cast such a ring as this.
As well as using the metal of the old cracked ring of four and new metal, silver was thrown into the mould in accordance with old tradition. This silver is a soft metal and too much would dull the tone. It may be that the silver found its way into another receptacle than the melting pot, – the founders pocket!
Anyway, St.Veep bells are still in the tower, regularly rung, in the Cornish tradition, for services, practice and for great events in the nation and the locality.