Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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The bells unloaded from Whites of Appleton's lorry and lined up in the churchyard prior to being trundled into the Church.

The bells are (L-R):- tenor probably by John Martin of Worcester 1638 (11-0-2); 4th, John Rudhall 1826 (9-1-17); 3rd, Henry Bond of Burford 1904 (6-0-7); 2nd, possibly by James Keene 1625 (5-0-6); new treble, Whitechapel 2014 (5-1-3)

Graham Clifton of WoA (and Guild member), bringing the 4th bell up

Back in 1996, I think it was, the Guild held its Minimus (Minnie Mouse) Striking Competition at Stanway. It's the only time I ever rang there when they were a ring of 4. Why was that, when they are only 3 miles from my home? Simple. They were seriously dreadful. They went like the proverbial side of a house, and there were perfectly reasonable questions about which mode they were tuned to, the conclusion being they were just a collection of sounds. A lot happened after then. Simon Ridley from Cheltenham bravely, very bravely, took them on. He did some maintenance work up there (see Newsletter 133; July 2012) and launched an appeal to rehang them, and, if possible, add a treble. The latter was straightforward, because the four bells hung in a 5-bell frame.

Fast forward to last year, when the appeal reached its target and an order was placed with Whites of Appleton to undertake the work. A local donor provided funds to have a new treble cast. The bells were taken out and transported to WoA's works.

It was there, after removing the headstocks, that the crowns of the old treble (now 2nd) and the tenor were found to have too many holes drilled through from past hangings for them to be safe to ring full-circle. They looked like pepper pots. An extra bill of about £6000 was required to weld up the holes and make them strong enough to once again ring.

While the bells were away the wooden bellframe was strengthened. It was OK in itself, but there were no tie bars to squeeze the joints together, and it moved around on its foundation beams. It was hardly surprising the bells went as badly as they did. New tie bars were inserted and a new steel foundation base was installed. In addition, the Ringing Room received some TLC, with various areas being wood panelled. Nice.

Activity in the belfry: Simon Ridley in the foreground.

The bells returned on Monday 1st June. As is the norm, they were lined up along the path for the photos. It is extremely unlikely that they will be seen in the churchyard again for a very long time.

By the end of that day all the bells were in their pits and some fittings were on. Tuesday saw all the big pieces on the bells, and the smaller bits and pieces were being done. It is amazing how quickly the big pieces go on, but how long it takes to fit the little bits — is it something about the 80:20 rule: 80% of the work will take 20% of the time, whereas the remaining 20% needs 80%…. ?

Friday lunch time was the try-out. I felt privileged to be invited along considering I hadn't got my hands mucky, so I hung back outside to listen to the rise. It was a lovely sunny day. The bells sounded good; definitely tuned to a major scale now. All sounded even, too. I ventured up the tower to find a smart Ringing Room, from the ceiling of which hung ropes with psychedelic salleys. Psychedelic? You don't believe me? OK, you need to go and see for yourself. If you want some like this, ask Simon how he obtained them. They may catch on. What a big change with the bells! Very good Simon. Very good Whites.

Fast forward again by just over a fortnight, to the Re-dedication Service on 21st June. The Re-dedication ceremony was performed by The Rt Rev David Jennings, the Honorary Assistant Bishop of Gloucester. The reception afterwards was in the Great Hall of Stanway House, by kind permission of the Earl & Countess of Wemyss and March.

Mr & Mrs Graham Clifton, looking pleased with the result

The frontage of Stanway House, with waiters in attendance

Mingling in the Great Hall of Stanway House

The reception was delightfully 'old-style and old-money', as one might expect from an ancient titled family, with uniformed waiters and waitresses circulating with drinks, delicately-prepared sandwiches and mini-desserts. It rounded off a sunny day in a Cotswold church and village, with the previously-dreadful bells now augmented, and sounding and ringing well; plus the historic and architectural delights of Stanway House to savour. Hmmm: very nice. I could manage this every weekend….

The Guild will get a chance to try out Stanway bells on Oct 24th.

Chris Povey.