Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Tower of the Quarter — St Mary the Virgin, CHASTLETON, OXON

(Photo: Chris Povey)

The bells of St Laurence Church, Wyck Rissington, are once again ringable after some years of being otherwise. The work to return them to the tower started when the bells arrived back in the village on Monday November 5th, courtesy of Whites of Appleton director and FSG member Graham Clifton and his colleague James Sellick.

The FSG Newsletter's chief home affairs correspondent was there to record the bells coming home. Read all about it and the subsequent work required to prepare for the Dedication Service that occurred on December 16th. And did you know lions roam in the village?

Wyck Rissington: Bells now ringable.

Wyck Rissington's project to rehang their bells was first mentioned in this illustrious journal in July last year (issue 133), under the title A tale of two fours. Whites of Appleton had just removed the bells. As can be seen from above, the bells have returned. It's pleasing to report that everything is now up and running again.

As might be imagined, much work has been done since July. Not only have the bells received new fittings (which includes such niceties as ball bearings to swing on!), but their canons and cast-in crown staples have been removed. In addition the bells have been tuned. They were all well off-key, to the point that some unkind person described them as musically chronic — although it was a fair assessment! The 2nd and 3rd were substantially sharp of the tenor's note, and the treble horrendously so. Whites packed them off to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, wherein modern tuning equipment and much expertise was brought to bear on them.

Some work was undertaken to the bellframe. This was considered to be in good enough condition to continue in use, although tie-bolts were inserted to squeeze the vertical joints tight, and steel cleats were coach-screwed to the horizontal joints. The major problem concerned the frame's support. Although the outer bottom sills rest on the tower off-set, a single wooden main beam straddling the centre of the belfry provided support to the middle of the frame. Unfortunately this beam is very old and very wizened, and it was considered unable to continue supporting the frame. It had to stay, of course, but two steel Universal Beams were inserted underneath the bellframe to take the weight off the old beam. A belfry floor has been provided (good addition: no floor previously; just a 12ft drop to next floor!).

With work to the bellframe complete, the bells were delivered on Monday 5th November. The previous day had seen lots of rain and even snow! However, Monday was bright and sunny: ideal conditions to unload four bells and their associated fittings.

Start time was 9.00am, but Whites were there earlier. It didn't take long to get the bells off the truck and lined up in front of the tower door ready for a photo opportunity. The various hoists were soon in place and the treble was taken up and placed in its pit.

The 2nd bell back in the belfry

All four bells ready for the try-out
(compare with photo in July Newsletter)

The others soon followed, after which their fittings were attached. At the end of the day there were four bells in their pits complete with wheels, clappers and stays, but minus sliders and pulleys.

W-R ringers & friends, L-R: Elizabeth Ransom (treble), Jeremy Meyrick, Sue Coleman, James Ross (2nd), Roger Jones, Steve Coleman, Pippa Simon (3rd), Churchwarden Anne Smith, Andrew Ransom (tenor)

Whites returned later in the month to fit the remaining fittings and a new rope guide assembly. The ropes were put on and a try-out occurred on Thursday 29th November. The local ringing band is quite new, having been recruited in preparation for the bells to be ringable again. Jeremy Meyrick has tutored them at Great Rissington, with able assistance from Sue and Steve Coleman of the G&BDA. The try-out was therefore a new experience for the Wyck Rissington ringers – it was the first time they had rung their own bells. Everything worked perfectly - and the bells were transformed musically, too.

Andrew Gunn (Hon Sec) handing over the Guild's grant cheque.

(Photo: Elizabeth Ransom)

The Dedication Service was on Sunday December 16th as part of the Morning Service. It was clearly a very joyful occasion, as it probably represented a fitting conclusion to the major work to the church that has cost about £350,000 in the last few years. This small community knows a thing or two about fund-raising! The Guild handed over its grant cheque at the Service, as did the G&BDA. It was a good result.

An augmentation to 5? It was considered, but too late in the project to deviate from the intended work. It seems possible, but it isn't straightforward. However, after their mammoth fundraising episode the PCC has decided they need a break — not unreasonably. Perhaps when the local band is proficient and wants new challenges…?

OK; what about those lions in Wyck Rissington? Here is one. It is, of course, a Cotswold Lion. It's always a joy to see a flock of genuine Cotswold sheep in the Cotswolds that don't reside in the Rare Breeds Farm Park.