Rings of 4 are rare in our area. I believe there are just three of them. Until recently two have been unringable and one, although ringable, is rung sparingly due to the nature of the frame supporting beams and some fittings. Of the recently unringable ones, Ettington has had substantial DIY work applied by Graham Nabb of Kineton such that the bells can now be rung, and the other, Wyck Rissington, is undergoing rehanging work by Whites of Appleton at the moment. Stanway is the one that's ringable but only just. They are very hard to ring, but there are plans to rehang them. I went to Wyck Rissington (see below) and Simon Ridley from Cheltenham, who has taken Stanway under his wing and who is spearheading the rehanging project, describes the current situation there, what the projected work entails and how the project is proceeding. It's not very often you see an article on a ring of four, let alone an article on two rings of four, so settle back and enjoy the experience!
This small village (Wyck Rissington) must be a beacon of hope to those fundraising. After raising about £300,000 to re-roof the Nave, they set about raising approximately £25,000 to have the bells rehung. The bells became unringable about 6 years ago. The frame is good, but the wooden headstocks had become spongy, and other fittings were time-expired. Whites of Appleton are undertaking the work and came to remove the bells on Monday 14th May. (An indication of the enthusiasm that exists at Wyck Rissington is the speed at which all the wording and photos about this operation appeared on their website: the same evening!!) The bells will have their canons removed and will be given modern ringing fittings. They will then be tuned, as two in particular are wildly sharp. The frame will be given some tie-bars and brackets to stiffen it, and two steel beams will be placed underneath the frame to relieve the old wooden beams supposedly doing this job, but are gradually not. A new floor underneath the bellframe will be provided, to prevent the steeplekeeper plummeting some 12ft to the next floor below if he loses his footing. Some thought was given to augmenting to 5, but sadly there is no room to add another bell.
Very good luck to Wyck Rissington with this project. I will update as and when things happen. Perhaps next year the Mini-Mouse competition can be held on a genuine and easy-going 4. CMP
The church and tiny village form part of the Stanway Manor Estate — most recently noted for its 300ft high single jet fountain. The bells were last restored in 1904 by Bond of Burford, who also cast the 2nd bell. The bellframe is for 5 bells, so there is a vacant pit for a treble.
The four bells have been seldom rung since their restoration and when you are on the end of a rope it's easy to hear why — they sound terrible! While the tenor and 3rd bells are almost in tune with each other, the treble could be in another ring and the 2nd seems to have been a poor compromise to amalgamate the others. The fittings, too, appear to have been salvaged from Bond's workshop floor and all are well past their sell-by date. Many date from around 1860 and are poorly installed at best. One of the badly split headstocks still has bark attached and the treble has a medieval clapper! Certainly the installation is no more than a sum of its parts.
The proposed scheme is to make the best of what is in the tower and enhance it to create a tuneful and easily ringable instrument that can be made available for ringers and the church to enjoy. This will involve tuning the existing bells (two of which are of historical significance) and casting a new treble to fill the vacant pit in the frame. Thankfully, the frame is in good condition and so will be strengthened with tie rods and angle plates before being lowered onto new foundation beams. Safe access and a new floor will be built under the frame so a strong head for heights will no longer be a pre-requisite for ringing here.
The scheme is currently being put through the faculty process and fundraising is beginning. It will cost £40,000 to create a good quality ring of 5 bells. We will shortly be seeking donors to assist with the project. If you would like further information or a look at the bells, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone 01242 525582. Simon Ridley