Bell Ringing

Their Inscriptions, Founders, Uses and Tradition &c.

By Alfred Heneage Cocks, MA

Published 1894

Digitized by Cornell University.

1: Treble: by "the firm," at Drayton Parslow; the lettering (1 inch high) only occurs on three other bells in the county.

2: perhaps seventeenth century; the rims are one inch apart; crown-staple broken.

3: by John Danyell; the capitals are figured on Plate XII.; the beautiful initial medallion is fig. 25; the shield is fig. 24; and the small cross at the end is fig. 22.

4 and 5: are by Joseph Carter; the shield on the fourth is a copy of fig. 55; the lettering on tenor is a very thick, clumsy set of black-letter, and the coin probably a copy of the ancient Wokingham stamp. The clapper of the fourth has a very small ball, nearly triangular (apex upwards); and a long flight, ending in a shovel-shaped enlargement, as a make-weight; wooden splints. The tenor clapper is also rather peculiar. All the bells are turned, but with the old hangings and old frame.

23 July, 1552, weſten turwyld (also, weſtē turvyle) It in the ſtepell v. belle

14 July, 1638. Weston Turvile 5 bells. The East monier wanting of the steeple. the uper windows on the west pl... (gone) of the steeple much in decay. 1714, 5 bells.

Death Knell: the tenor used for adults, and the treble for children. Tellers,

3x3 = a male; 2×3= a female.

On Sundays, the bells are ordinarily chimed for Service; but rung on the great Festivals.

Ringing once or twice a week, for a month before Christmas.

No old churchwardens' accounts.

Many thanks to the Rev. John Ellam, Rector.

From The Bucks Advertiser Jan 4 1952

Bells Will Ring Out

FOR THE first time in 50 years the bells of St. Mary at Weston Turville are being rung and not chimed as they used to be.

The story goes back 50 years when a non-ringing order was given because the oak beams supporting the five great bells, one of which weighs nearly a ton, were unsafe. To ring them would be dangerous.

It was found the beams were strong enough to bear the weight of the bells if they were swung and not rung.

This chiming of the bells has been going on for 50 years. Then a short while ago the bells were removed from the belfry by Messrs. Gillet and Johnson, of Croydon, and Messrs. Webster and Cannon, of Aylesbury, the old beams were taken out and steel girders replaced.

Now after three months the bells are back. All that remains is for the five bellringers to learn how to ring them. They hope to in time for when the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr. R. M. Hay attends a special re-dedication service on February 24.

Weston Turville becomes a six at Last

A glance at the County listings in older copies of 'Dove' will reveal that until 1982 Buckinghamshire had 22 rings of five. The spate of augmentations in the county in the last 20 years has seen seven towers leave this column (although one new tower has been added) and the latest to depart is Weston Turville.

This story began with a telephone call from Doug Walton, Tower Captain, in January 2000. Doug “wanted to have a word with me about something in private” and so I duly visited him and his wife Irene, and was delighted to learn that he was considering the provision of a new treble to fill the vacant pit in the six-bell frame.

Weston Turville is a quiet village lying some four miles east of the centre of Aylesbury between Stoke Mandeville and Aston Clinton. At the time of Edward the Confessor (c. 1004- 1016) Weston, as the village was then known, was held in four manors: Bedgrove, Weston Molins, Weston Butlers and Hide. After the Norman conquest, while it formed part of the lands of Bishop Odo of Baieax, the early division into four parts was obliterated and the second appellation Turville added, the name of one of William the Conqueror's companions in arms. The last mention of a member of the de Turville family in connection with the advowson in the church records is 12th May 1300.

The village retains some attractive features, including a number of ancient, and in some cases thatched houses, characterful pubs and quiet country lanes. In the grounds of the Manor House, to the north of the church, may be found the remains of a motte and bailey. Even the modern housing developments are unobtrusive and have been sympathetically blended into their surroundings.

The church of St Mary the Virgin lies at the end of a short country lane to the south of the village. The earliest standing parts date from the 13th Century and include the chancel arch, north and south arcades (wall paintings of the same date may be found over the latter) and the south doorway (now blocked up). Much of the remainder is 14th Century with 15th Century additions, notably the windows of the north aisle and the lower stages of the tower. The tower was heightened at a later date, probably in the 17th Century and the chancel was rebuilt on the existing foundations in the 19th Century.

The church was almost completely restored and new heating installed during 1961-1963. following the bequest of a former church warden, Harvey Wakefield. This work was most sympathetically done, and among the most notable features are the excellent flag- stone floor and the new pews in the nave. So often pews can clutter a church building (and, being immovable, are unfortunately set to do so for some years to come) but here they are set only in the nave leaving the north and south aisles as versatile spaces of which good use is being put by the present congregation. Like the village where the building is set, the interior of the church has a homely feel.

A. H. Cocks in his Church Bells of Buckinghamshire (1897) reveals, from the County listing he constructed from the Inventories of Goods taken in 1552/3, that Weston Turville was one of only 13 churches out of 135 with bells to have a ring of five, and none in the county had more than five bells at that time. It would seem that there must have been at least three subsequent recastings or replacements involving this ring since all bar the second and third of the five are dated after 1553. Cocks goes on to say that when he surveyed the tower for his book in the late 19th Century, he found that “all the bells are turned, but with the old hangings and old frame” and adds the clapper of the fourth has a very small ball, nearly triangular (apex upwards); and a long flight, ending in a shovel-shaped enlargement, as a make weight; wooden splints. The tenor clapper is also rather peculiar. Visitors to the church today can still observe four of these original clappers, which, along with a number of other church artefacts, are charmingly pre- served in a display case at the back of the north aisle.

Until which year the bells in this condition were rung full-circle is unclear. Cocks would seem to indicate that the installation was in less than fully serviceable condition and certainly, until the mid 20th Century, they were for some time considered unringable and were chimed only.

Major work was begun in the tower in 1951. Two reinforced concrete ring-beams were installed; one at bell frame level and another at the tower apex, just below the roof. The latter, together with an additional grillage of concrete beams, gives the belfry ceiling a very reassuring, solid look. Gillett & Johnston were awarded the contract to rehang the bells in a new iron and steel six bell frame, and in their customary fashion, they did an excellent job. All the bells were equipped with cannon retaining headstocks incorporating double row self-aligning ball bearings. New wheels, traditional stays and sliders and hardwood pulleys completed the job. Although there is a sizeable intermediate chamber between the ground floor and belfry, the decision was made to ring the bells from the ground floor, and the long draught of some 30 feet made the provision of rope guides a necessity. Nevertheless, handling here has never been a problem and ringers have always been able to admire the soaring Early English western arch that divides the tower from the Nave. One of the most pleasing outcomes of this restoration must have been the great success of Gillett & Johnston's tuning. Alan Hughes survey prior to the augmentation revealed that the fourth was left uncut, and the remaining bells tuned to suit. I have always found this five to have a most mellow and uniform sound, all the more remarkable since they are the work of four different founders spanning as much as 400 years.

The bells were put to good use in the ensuing years. A local band of ringers was seldom absent through the continued interest of Doug Walton, and the tower remained a popular venue for local branch practices of the Oxford Diocesan Guild Wedding ringing was, at one time, almost incessant. The new Bedgrove estate (see the earlier reference to the manors in which the village was held), which appeared on the eastern outskirts of Aylesbury in the early 1970s, brought a large number of young couples wanting to be married. The author himself remembers ringing for 21 weddings in one summer alone.

Doug seldom forgot his interest in seeing the vacant pit in the new frame filled, and from time to time he would chat with me, as I think he did with one or two others, about the possibility of completing the job started in 1951. It was all the more pleasing, then, that nearly 50 years on we were able to seriously consider making it a reality. Since I had recently been in the process of obtaining estimates for the proposed two new trebles at Aston Clinton (more about that in future months!) I could make a reasonably accurate 'guesstimate' of what the new bell was likely to cost, and in the end this was a worthwhile exercise as my figures were only 3% out. As our deliberations progressed it gradually emerged that Doug, and his wife Irene, wished to make the gift of this new bell. Whitechapel were invited to quote and Alan Hughes duly visited the church on 31st March to make his inspection. He confirmed that there would be no problems filling the vacant pit, and also recommended that the existing clappers be overhauled. The PCC, having recovered from their initial surprise that anyone would wish to give such a sum of money (well, these things do happen where bells are concerned, don't they?), readily agreed to the proposal. Tony Fanthorpe, Churchwarden, lent his full support and assistance with the formalities and a few months later things were well underway and Diocesan approval was being sought.

In the meantime, attention was turned to the existing installation. Generally, everything remained in fair condition following the work 50 years ago, However, the tower at Weston Turville is fairly exposed and half a century of the elements attacking through all four of the good-sized belfry windows meant that the frame and fittings were overdue for a liberal application of paint. This duly commenced in August last year when the local ringers, assisted by one or two from neighbouring towers, set about cleaning the frame and headstocks, sweeping the belfry and applying several layers of good quality paint. As is customary in these situations, all those involved bring their individual skills and character to beat, but I shall remember in particular the sight of Rebecca Asling from Stoke Mandeville, usually a well turned-out young lady, quickly covering herself in a liberal layer of rust, dust and grease. "Oh I'm used to getting dirty she said; "my father is a car mechanic!"

Alan Hughes had initially indicated that Whitechapel would be unlikely to be able to cast and hang the bell until March 2001. However, things progressed sufficiently well such that the order for the bell was placed in October, and in the event Whitechapel were able to cast the bell on Friday 17th November. Doug and his wife, together with a small party of ringers and friends, witnessed the casting. The bell was delivered to the church two weeks later on 27th and was met again by Doug together with several of the local band who eagerly assisted with the unloading. The installation of the bell proved, as expected, to be straightforward and this was completed on the following Monday, assisted by local ringers Brian Robson, James Saunby and Doug's son, Peter. As expected, it turned out to be an excellent match to the existing five and a worthy completion of the work started 49 years previously. It was another happy coincidence that the bell was cast exactly 300 years after the next youngest bell in the tower.

With the 49th Anniversary of the dedication of the rehung five bells occurring on a Saturday, the opportunity to attempt the first peal on the new six was one too good to miss. Although the bell had yet to be dedicated, the church authorities were happy for the attempt to take place and the peal was duly scored on Saturday 24th February (RW p.298). The band were all members of the Chiltern Branch of the Oxford D.G. (to which the tower belongs) and Roy Woodruff was able to be the first to ring the new treble to a peal

in the tower where he also rang his first peal some 46 years previously. The first quarter peal has yet to be rung and this is rightly being left to the local band. Peal ringing is not a possibility for them but a quarter peal most certainly is.

The Dedication Service was held on Sunday 22nd April and the customary full church welcomed the Right Reverend Peter Nott, retired Bishop of Norwich, who had been invited to perform the act of dedication. Bishop Nott gave an excellent address in which he praised the dedication and generosity of bell ringers who so often give of their time, efforts and money to ensure that bells continue to be rung. The new treble at Weston Turville is a prime example of this. The Bishop rightly did not forget the theme of the day and also addressed the congregation on the Apostle Thomas.

Congratulations are undoubtedly due to Doug Walton who, with his wife Irene, has provided a worthy addition to the tower and another nice six for the Chiltern Branch of the Oxford D.G., Buckinghamshire, and the Oxford Diocese. They are rightly proud of what they have provided and we hope that they will continue to enjoy their gift for many years to come, as will all those who in future ring at Weston Turville.