At the dissolution of the
Monastery in 1536
the parishioners originally purchased the bells and the roof lead for £260.
The tenor is 46 cwt and 5 lb, and was last recast in B flat in 1933/34 during a partial restoration by Whitechapel Bell Foundry. According to tradition it was originally one of up to seven bells from Tournai brought as gifts by Cardinal Wolsey in about 1514. Other very large bells in this shipment were destined for York, Oxford, Lincoln and Exeter.
Until the mid nineteenth century the six bells then present were rung from the ground floor directly under the tower. Ringing such heavy bells with such long ropes would have taken a lot of effort; it is said that the heavier bells would have needed up to six men to ring them! Probably because of this the bells were set into a new oak frame, two bells added, and a ringing chamber built just above the tower fan vaulting.
The restoration that was carried out in 1933/34 was a key event, with the bells being taken away and returned by rail. There are many old photographs of the bells arriving at Sherborne station and then being pulled on hand cart along Digby road back to the Abbey.
In addition to the peal of eight bells that are used for ringing we also have two other bells in the tower: The Fire-Bell, which is unusual in so far as it has an in-turned lip, and so has a completely different sound to a conventional bell, and is only suspended from the bell frame, so is unringable. The Sanctus bell, which again is not hung for ringing, is still in regular use and is chimed at the blessing of the sanctum and probably weighs about one and a half hundredweight.