In 1982 Derek and Mary Williams bought several cardboard boxes of old handbells at an auction in Levin, NZ for NZ$1000. There were several dozen bells, all in a poor state. The clapper leathers and leather handles were hardened and cracked beyond use or had disappeared altogether. Several clapper mechanisms were missing completely, others had springs missing and many were immovable. Some bells were cracked or of poor tone.
It is believed the bells came from the Marycrest Convent and Catholic Girls Boarding School located at Te Horo, between Waikanae and Otaki. The Convent and School was run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The Convent was founded in 1946 and the School began about 1956. Marycrest closed in 1980. However, the bells appear to be from the firm of John Warner and Sons, which ceased manufacture in 1910, well before the opening of Marycrest. The bells may have originally been at the Sisters of the Good Shepherd establishment at Mount Magdala, Christchurch. Some inmates were transfered from Mount Magdala to Marycrest and the bells may have been similarly moved.
Steve McEwan, handbell foreman at the Whitechapel Foundry, noted that the bells had leather work and profiles typical of the Whitchapel Foundry around 1900. At this time Warners and Whitechapel co-operated and Whitechapel made bells that were marketed by Warners. It is likely therefore that the bells are actually from the Whitechapel Foundry.
The bells were sent to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1983 for evaluation and for a quote for the renovation work. A few bells were sold to another Whitechapel client. For several reasons no work was done on the bells and they remained in storage at Whitechapel.