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Bellringing at Saint Mary's Parish Church, Ellesmere

I thought that those readers of the Church magazine who were unable to attend the Annual Church Meetin, recently might be interested in reading my short report as Tower Captain:

After a break from November 2013 to April 2014, with no bells to ring at Ellesmere, we rang on the restored bells for Palm Sunday in 2014.

People in Ellesmere have made favourable comments on the retuned bells, although a number of people have commented on the sound of the bells being quieter. The restoration work should ensure the bells and associated equipment are fit for purpose for probably the next hundred years. Without a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, it is unlikely that the money would have been available from other sources.

Special recognition should be made to the work done by the joint project leaders - Mr. Peter Leigh and Mr. Rodney Upton. Without their dedication and commitment, it is unlikely the work would have been started, never mind completed within the budget and within the anticipated timescale.

We were also fortunate to have an excellent team of volunteers to help in the work and reduce the cost. All the volunteers were bellringers or former bellringers who freely gave of their time and talent in a worthy project.

Regarding bellringing at Saint Mary's - we continue to have a dedicated band of ringers, who turn up regularly on a Friday night practice and for Sunday morning service ringing. Special mention should be made of our two new ringers - Kate and Jackie - both of whom have become essential members of our band and continue to make good progress.

I like to think that the sound of the bells is part of the contribution that the Church of England makes to what means to the 'British' way of life, and more importantly, proclaims to all who listen that Christianity and this Church continue to exist, and will hopefully, continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Certainly the bells will be still in the Tower in 100 years time, with hopefully bellringers to ring them and a congregation and community to listen!

Thanks for taking the time to read this article - Terry Davies.

Shropshire Bell Ringers Meeting

On Saturday 10 January we were hosts for the AGM of the Shropshire ssociation of Church Bell Ringers. The meeting attracted over 60 nembers from across the northern half of the county.

Proceedings started with ringing at 4 pm which allowed the members to experience the improved sound and handling of the bells following the restoration project. This was followed by a short service taken by the Vicar, Rev Philip Edge, at which the Archdeacon of Salop, the Ven Paul Thomas (who is Vice President of the Association) gave the address. He spoke about the evocative and emotional effects that sounds have on people, particularly the sound of bells. Some enthusiastic hymn singing was accompanied by the organist, Malcolm Powell.

After the service we moved into St John's room where a splendid buffet was provided and the ringers tucked in, leaving little at the end. The buffet was provided by Vermeulen's and our thanks go to Annabelle and Jen for providing such a good spread and for their hard work in setting it out and clearing up after us.

The business of the meeting continued for a further 2 hours and afterwards some of the ringers returned to the tower for a further session on the bells, whilst others retired to one of the local pubs.

On 24 January a team of 8 ringers from the Association rang a quarter peal (1260 changes taking about 45 minutes) of a method called Quedgeley Surprise Major (don't ask me - it's well beyond my abilities!!) to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Sir Winston Churchill.

After all the turmoil of the bells project and hosting this meeting we are now back to "business as usual" with our practices on Friday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.00pm and our regular ringing at 9.45am before the Sunday morning services.

We extend a warm welcome to anyone wishing to take up our ancient and fascinating activity -just get in contact with any of the ringers and we will show you what is involved and how you can join in.

 

Peter Leigh
for the Tower Captain and Bell Ringers

More News From The Bells

On Saturday 10 January we are to host the ACM of the Shropshire Association of Church Bellringers.

We received a substantial grant from the Association towards the costs of the Bell Restoration Project. This occasion will give us the chance to thank the Association for their generosity and give the Association members a chance to ring the bells and experience the great improvement in both sound and ease of ringing that we have achieved.

We are expecting about 50 members to attend. There will be bell ringing from about 4 .00pm for an hour. We will then have a short service in church and this will be followed by tea and the meeting in St John's Room. There may be more ringing after the meeting but it will end well before 9.00pm.

Peter Leigh
for the Tower Captain and Bell Ringers

News From The Bells

The bells are now working well and sound so much better than before!!

On Saturday 11 October a team of ringers from the Shropshire Association of Church Bell Ringers rang a quarter peal of Stedman Triples. This was the first time a quarter peal had been successfully rung on the bells since they were retuned, refurbished and returned to the tower at Easter. The quarter peal consists of 1260 changes during which the order in which the 8 bells sound is never repeated. It took 47 minutes to complete.

The quarter peal was rung as a tribute to the fallen of the First World War, especially to those 68 men of Ellesmere and district who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Using some of the old equipment from the bells that was removed before they went for refurbishment, we have created an exhibit to serve as a reminder of the Bell Project. We have taken the wheel and headstock from the treble bell, clappers from the treble and second bells, and two of the old ropes and created a display. On lecterns at either side we have compiled a record of the project from the initial fund raising though all the work of removing and replacing the bells to the blessing of the bells after they were re-installed. We also display all the press cuttings which followed our progress though the Project. It is on display at the back of the church - please have a look at it.

We held another successful open tower afternoon during the Ellesmere Festival. Although the weather was not too good and the views from the top of the tower were limited, about 80 people enjoyed the tours and found out about the work that had been done. With the simulator system allowing us to ring the bells without making a noise outside and CCTV giving a view of the bells from the ringing chamber we now have a much more informative presentation for visitors. The Sunday evening youth group had a tour of the tower on 19 October. We will be holding more open tower afternoons next year.

We can usually muster 8 ringers on Sunday mornings so that we can do justice to the bells and we have friends from other towers who join us for our Friday evening practices. However we always need more ringers and are pleased to welcome new-comers. So if you have rung before and would like to come back to it or if you have never rung but would like to give it a try, don't be shy, get in touch, we will be delighted to see you.

(Following on from last month's magazine - our bells do not have names but they do have inscriptions on them - find out about them on a tower visit!)

Peter Leigh
for the Tower Captain and Bell Ringers

Final News From the Bell Project

Done and Dusted!!!

At last we have the bells back in place and the tower cleaned and redecorated. At last the ringers can relax and return to ringing the bells instead of spending all their time cleaning, painting, bolting and hammering.
The ceiling in the ringing chamber has been refurbished and the rope hand-rail on the stairs has been installed. These were the final tasks of the project.

To celebrate the (very successful) end of the project we are going to hold another Tower Open Day so that you can come and see what we have achieved. The tower captain, Terry Davies, and all of the ringers would therefore like to invite you to visit the Tower on Saturday 19 July between 2pm and 5 pm. See the details in the advert in the magazine. Ann Harris and her team of helpers will provide teas in the church during the afternoon.

Before the open day we have asked the vicar to hold a short service in the ringing chamber for the ringers, to bless the bells and to mark the end of the project.

By now I hope you will have heard the bells and noticed the improvement in their sound - they are now much more in tune, a musical octave, and much sweeter in tone.

Closely connected with the project, but not part of it, we have installed a new flag-pole on the tower. The old one, a very heavy wooden pole, was rotten at the top and the pulley broke on Christmas morning. We have now replaced it with a glass fibre pole of the same height, with a golden ball on the top! The flag has been flown for Ascension Day, Pentecost and in future will be flown for important days in the calendar of the church and the town.

 

Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Tower Captain and all of the Bell Ringers