Bells of Avon-Swift

Rob PALMER has written a series of articles collating some great information about the bells of the Avon-Swift churches. 

These were published in the Five Parishes Newsletter.

Swinford Church Bells

At present, the bells of Swinford All Saints are hung ‘dead’ (as they have been since 1971), but we would like to re hang them so that they can be rung again. The PCC received a draft report on the bells from George Dawson, the Leicester Diocesan Bells Advisor, and as we continue to raise funds for the project, we thought you might like to be reminded of a bit about the bells.

There are currently four bells. The inscriptions around the bottoms of the bells read as follows:

            Treble             IHESUS BE OUR SPED ANNO DOMINI 1598

            Second             IHS NAZARENVS [9] REX IVDEORVM [9] FILI DEI [9] MISERERE                                     MEI [9] 1631  

            Third               GOD SAUE OUR QUEENE 1599

            Tenor               [Rose] ABCD [Portcullis] EFGHI KLMNOP    

The treble and third bells were cast by Hugh I Watts of Leicester, whilst the second is by his son, Hugh II. It is interesting to note that Hugh II cast one of the bells at Shawell a year later in 1632. The tenor bell has two badges (the Rose and Portcullis referred to above) which indicate that it is the product of the Nottingham bell foundry, and it would appear that this bell was cast sometime in the 1550s or 1560s by Humphrey or Robert Quernby, at a time when it was dangerous to put an inscription which indicated your Catholic or Protestant leanings.

The bellframe itself, is a ‘fine substantial piece of work, showing many features that indicate the carpenter was an excellent craftsman.’ It is likely to date from the early 1600s, and may have been provided when the treble bell was cast. However, it would not be fit to take ringing bells again. As it is of some historical importance any restoration of the bells would mean providing a new frame lower in the tower. While installing a new frame, it would be possible to increase the number of bells to five or six so that a proper peal could be achieved. Obviously, to achieve this, we will have to work hard at raising the necessary funds, and we hope you will support us!

- Swinford All Saints Parochial Church Council, August 2016

 

The Bells of Stanford on Avon Story

Although not exactly uncommon, the five bells of St. Nicholas' Church, Stanford on Avon are so configured within their wooden framework to render an anti-clockwise ringing circle.

Upon succession of a newly appointed tower captain, Andy Hinton, ably assisted by Daphne Hinton, and in conjunction with the local bell ringers, decided to inspect the installation as increasing ringing difficulties were being experienced. This is not to imply the installation was previously neglected but there were still numerous outstanding issues to be addressed to return the five bells and fittings etc to an acceptable standard. We were previously informed of at least four weddings to take place later in the year, so commencing May 2017, the initial inspection process took place. Upon entering the bell chamber, we were surprised, in fact, highly delighted to see no debris such as twigs, feathers and leaves on the floor. However, the bell installation itself was another matter altogether.

Itemising the remedial actions is probably the best way to explain what we found and subsequently repaired, replaced or maintained.

  1. Sort, re-attach or repair all of the numerous fallen wheel shroud sections, using stainless steel fixing screws. Also, add more fixing screws to strengthen the remainder of the loose shrouds, which were about to drop off.
  2. Remove, inspect, grease, refurbish and re-tighten all five of the crown staple / clapper / headstock interface hardware arrangements. Refit with new leather washers where necessary.
  3. Inspect and top up gudgeon bearing grease caps.
  4. Inspect ground pulley blocks and bearings for wear and tear, top up grease cups. No.4 ground pulley removed for further remedial work, temporarily replaced with redundant ground pulley from Welford tower.
  5. Replace missing stay fixing hardware.
  6. Add new rope bosses to bell chamber floor interface in order to reduce friction on ropes, which were cutting through the floor.
  7. Adjust rope lengths and untwist tails.
  8. Sweep all floors and spiral stairway.
  9. Add new ‘bells raised’ etc warning signs and bell data information.

Upon test ringing of the bells, as hopefully expected, we all immediately realised the work done had considerably enhanced the much smoother running of the installation. It is now an extremely pleasurable exercise to ring at Stanford on Avon.

At the end of the day the excellent tonal qualities of three Gillett & Johnston plus two Hugh II Watts bells, emitted from the tower remains the same.

Time-wise, the project was stretched over several weeks during May, June and early July 2017. We didn’t count the hours but there were lots of them!

Participating members of the Shawell, Misterton and Stanford on Avon volunteer maintenance team were :-

Andy and Daphne Hinton, Colin Sim, Rob Palmer and Mike Price.

Rob Palmer, July 2018

 

Maintaining Misterton’s Bells

For this month’s story of bells around parts of the Avon- Swift benefice, it’s the turn of St. Leonard’s Church at Misterton, where six bells are housed in the bell chamber, ringing out at nearly every Sunday service, other high days and at Christmastide.

Continuing on from Stanford on Avon, the newly appointed tower captains Andy and Daphne Hinton, set their sights on Misterton tower as it was certain that some attention was undoubtedly required.

At Misterton, it was deemed a fairly straightforward case of inspection followed by the usual remedial work. All the of the crown staple assemblies were removed, inspected, re-greased and new leather interface washers fitted as necessary, then re-assembled, clappers re-aligned and all tightened.

Removal, dismantling, cleaning, re-greasing and re-assembling the ground pulley blocks proved to be the most time consuming operation, in fact it took over 14 hours to complete just this one task. Experimental ball bearing shields were incorporated during the re-build to eliminate further stone dust and rope fibre build up within the bearings.

Loose and fallen wheel shrouds were repaired and refitted, enhanced by the use of stainless steel screws. Hastings guides cleaned, stays tightened and missing hardware refitted to the dinglers (or toggles).

(The Reverend J. F. Hastings was a Victorian engineering vicar who devised an elaborate compact alternative method of controlling the set positions of the bells. This method was used extensively by John Taylor and Co. for approx. 70 years up to the 1960s. In the end, along with other reasons, it proved too troublesome to replace stays due to the exacting dimensions required for correct function. During this period, many ‘un-official’ improvisations came to the forefront ranging from fair to dangerous beyond words. Nowadays, the original and simpler ash stay and slider mechanism are the norm.)

Another section of our team concentrated on the rope routes down through the sounding chamber to the new first floor ringing gallery. Upon raising the ringing floor to its present level, rope holes through the ceiling were consequently re-aligned. It was evident that further work was required so new rope bosses were fitted into prototype extender boards yielding lower friction values to the ropes and sallies. Some of the existing ropes worn beyond practical repair were replaced with spares previously used at All Saints’ Church, Shawell.

An open access point to the bell chamber was fitted with a newly constructed wooden trapdoor, successfully reducing the overwhelming decibels emitted from the adjacent tenor bell down to the ringing chamber.

In the ringing chamber, the bells noticeably run a lot smoother and are audibly more balanced. Accordingly, these enhancements are discernible to the recipient standing outside the Church.

All floor levels and spiral stairway were meticulously swept clean, the resultant dust and debris collected in six black refuse sacks. This task was completed entirely by Andy and Daphne Hinton. ‘New brooms (or should that be tower captains) sweep clean’ Well done A & D !

Participating members of the Shawell, Misterton and Stanford on Avon volunteer maintenance team were :-

Andy and Daphne Hinton, Colin Sim, Rob Palmer and Mike Price.

Rob Palmer, August 2018

 

Bells of Catthorpe

Phase 1.

The scaffolding has now been removed from around the tower of St. Thomas’ Church, Catthorpe. Remedial tasks to the three bells, associated fixtures and fittings commenced on Wednesday, October 10th with the advance working party fitting floorboards under the bells to allow present and future maintenance to be safely carried out. At the same time, a replacement aluminium access ladder was secured in position as the former wooden step ladder was considered too dangerous for further use. Another shorter ladder was added and secured to facilitate access to the upper bell frame.

At the time of writing this item for the newsletter, we have removed, refurbished and re-installed the crown staple clapper assemblies, cleaned and re-oiled plain bearings, ground floor pulleys, attended to a variety of other minor but nevertheless important repairs and have also replaced wire mesh and framework to each window opening within the sounding chamber and spiral stairway. A spine rope has been added to aid ascent and descent of the spiral stairway.

Further adjustments to the rope drop chutes and re-roping will take place from Friday, October 19th onwards. A pre-used rope has been donated to the project by David Westerman of Yelvertoft.

The three bells will be test-raised, rung and lowered well before the November 11th Remembrance events.

Upper Avon Valley Bells’ volunteer maintenance support team for the Catthorpe project is:- Andy and Daphne Hinton of Shawell, Gordon Ball of Welford, Colin Sim of Lutterworth and Rob Palmer of Lilbourne.

So, onto a bit of bell history. The treble was cast by Austen Bracker of King’s Lynn, c1560 and there are only seven similar known examples remaining in the country. The second was cast by John Rufford of Toddington, c1399 (or earlier c1380), with 22 known remaining examples. The tenor was cast by Joseph Eayre of St. Neots, 1770. 181 bells are presently recorded although there are many more attributions which have been re-cast during the intervening years.

Phase 2.

No doubt this topic will occur with dry and warm weather to hand. When appropriate, re-paint metal aspects of the framework and fittings. Apply a suitable wood preservative to the wooden aspects of the frame and fittings.

- Rob Palmer, November 2018

 

Catthorpe's Bells (Continued)

The three bells at St. Thomas’ Church, Catthorpe have been test raised and lowered and are now deemed ringable for experienced ringers or learners with guidance from other ringers.

The bells were sounded out for the ‘Ringing for Armistice’ celebrations on Sunday afternoon, November 11th marking exactly, the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice.

Ringers included four Catthorpe Parishioners (Andy & Lisa Netherwood and Jules & Geoff Franks) taught by Andy and Daphne Hinton from Shawell. Harry the Hat and his dad, who are two of our regular ringing colleagues from Hampshire were also present, travelling up to our area during the previous evening. Other ringers were James O’Neill and Anthea Hiams both of Yelvertoft; Colin Sim of Lutterworth; Ian Alexander and Rob Palmer both from Lilbourne and Tamas Polgar from Crick.

Many parishioners attended the celebrations at the Church; tea and cakes were generously provided by the Grindal family.

We, the Upper Avon Valley Bell Maintenance Support Team, still have a few more tasks to complete upon the bell installation to further enhance the harmonics of the treble and other bell control characteristics. However, in the meantime, the bells can be rung prior to Sunday services, during Christmastide or welcoming the New Year.

Ashby Magna’s three J.Taylor & Co. bells are next in attentive focus for the UAVBMS team.

Rob Palmer, December 2018

 

Church Bell Inscriptions Within Three of the Five Parishes

Swinford: (4 bells, chimed).

¨ 1 (Treble). 1598. Cast by Newcombe or Watts?

JHESVS BE OUR SPID ANNO DOMINI 1598

[Jesus be our speed A.D. 1598]

¨ 2. 1631. Cast by Hugh II Watts of Leicester.

 IH’S NAZARENVS REX IVDEORVM FILI DEI MISERERE MEI 1631

[Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. O Son of God have mercy on me]

¨ 3. 1599. Cast by Newcombe or Watts?

GOD SAVE OUR QUEENE

¨ 4 (Tenor). c1560. ‘Alphabet bell’ from a ‘Nottingham Foundry’.

ABCD EFGHI KLMNOP

 

Stanford on Avon: (5 bells hung for full circle ringing, anti-clockwise rope layout).

¨ 1 (Treble). Cast by Gillett & Johnston, previous bell recast 1928.

SER THOMAS CAVE THIS BELL HEE GAVE 1631.

[Sir Thomas Cave, this bell he gave 1631.]

¨ 2. Cast by Gillett & Johnston, previous bell recast 1928.

IH’? NAZARENVS REX IVDEORVM FILI DEI MISERERE MEI 1624.

[Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, O Son of God have mercy on me.1624]

¨ 3. Cast by Gillett & Johnston, previous bell recast 1928.

BE YT KNOWNE TO ALL THAT DOTH ME SEE THAT NEWCOMBE OF LEICESTER MADE MEE 1605.

[Be it known to all that do me see, Newcombe of Leicester made me 1605.]

¨ 4. Hugh II Watts, cast 1640.

PVLSOR & PVLSO JVBILO ET PLANGO SIC VITA HOMINIS 1640.

[I am struck and I strike, I rejoice and I mourn, such is the life of man.]

(Interpretation, courtesy of the Classics dept. at MCS Oxford)

¨ 5 (Tenor). Hugh II Watts, cast 1631.

CVM SONO CI NON VIS VENIRE NVNQVAM AD PRECES CVPIES IRE 1631.

[If you be unwilling to come when I call To prayers you’ll not wish to go at all. 1631]

Notes : Sir Thomas Cave of Stanford, c1496 - 1558 may have given the No.1 bell, so if this is the case, the Hugh II Watts bell of 1631 is a recast of a much earlier bell & therefore possibly replicating the original inscription.

Newcombe, No.3 bell - possibly the work of Edward or the brothers Robert III, Thomas III & William Newcombe.

 

Catthorpe: (3 bells, hung for full circle ringing).

¨ 1 (Treble).   c1560. Cast by Austen Bracker of King’s Lynn.

WORCHEPE BE TO GOD

[Worship be to God]

¨ 2. c1399. Cast by John Rufford of Toddington.

IOHANNES

[John]

¨ 3 (Tenor). 1770. Cast by Joseph Eayre of St.Neots.

CUM VOCO VENITE JOSEPH EAYRE FECIT 1770

[Come when I call Joseph Eayre made it 1770]

Rob Palmer, June 2019