Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Tower of the Quarter

St George's, Brailes

St George's, Brailes
(Photo: Stuart Cummings)

St George's Church, Brailes: ah! many ringers up and down the land have heard of it, and have probably rung there, too, just to say they have. When the new tenor at St Buryan in Cornwall was cast overweight in 1994 to oust Queen Camel (Somerset) from the 'heaviest 6' slot, Brailes was relegated to the 3rd heaviest ring of 6. Brailes bells are well-known to be 'something of a handful' (ever wondered why Stuart Cummins is such a big chap…), and this is due to movement of the tower. It's now known the bells swing at much the same time as one of the resonant frequencies of the tower. The tenor, dated 1877, is the largest bell cast by William Blews & Son of Birmingham, and weighs 29-0-19. The 2nd is a very ancient bell, cast about 1440 by William Chamberlain. Taylors rehung the bells in a new metal frame lower in the tower in 1957. The previous rehang had been by Frederick White of Appleton in 1894, who, when questioned about the improved but still-adverse go afterwards, is reputed to have replied, “Tis that poplar tree as they be hung in”, referring to the tall and somewhat slender tower. Enough of the bells, though; those who haven't rung at Brailes can sample them on March 5th at the Guild Saturday Practice.

The Church is large and imposing, its lofty tower adding a pleasing and balanced proportion to the main body. There has been a church on the site since the early 11thC, although only very small traces of this have been identified. The present building dates generally from the mid-14thC, but there have been many alterations and additions since then. The nave extended originally to roughly the line between the north door and south porch, but was extended westwards in the 15thC. The nave has a line of carved corbels, 12 either side, supporting the roof trusses, the carvings being of faces and people, animals and mythical figures. They are thought to date from the mid 14thC, except for one, a vicar in full-bottomed wig and bands, which is presumed to date from the repairs of 1649.

The octagonal font dates from the 14thC, but the base is later. The ornate cover was provided in 1879.

The chancel has a high-pitched roof, but the original roof is said to be preserved above the current ceiling lining. The east window dates from 14thC, although the stained glass is Victorian. On the south wall are three sedilia on three levels that date from the Middle Ages. The finely-carved stone reredos and altar were provided in 1879.

The tower was added in the 15thC and rises to 120ft (equivalent to Campden's). One can hardly believe it moves – but it does (as does Campden's, of course)!

When viewing the outside of the church, don't miss the delightful open bellcote above the chancel arch. This was erected in the 19thC and contains the sanctus, a small bell of about 1700.

Lastly, if you want to see a bird's eye view of the Church, there is no need to hire a helicopter. Just walk over to the North Aisle to view the magnificent model of the Church. It was constructed by Mr Fred Hall of Shipston, who used some 250,000 matchsticks over the 7-year period it took to complete the model. It encourages donations for the upkeep of St George's. Please donate!