Alphington Church Bells

Commissioners that were appointed by Edward VI found the ring of five bells in Alphington Church and there is record of these five bells in the tower dated 1550. A treble bell was added in 1725.

There were three regular ringing days when the bell ringers were paid, these days were: (a) 5th November; (b) 29th May Oak Apple or Royal Oak Day the birthday of King Charles II and this was also the day in 1660 when he landed at Dover; (c) the Sovereign's birthday.

In the Parish records from 1603–1836 it shows that Alphington's bell ringers were sometimes paid in beer instead of cash.

In 1750 it was resolved "that ye ringers should not ring after nine of ye clock in ye evening".

In 1749 the condition of the five bells was dangerous owing to the decay of the beams and timbers which supported them. The 4th bell was described as 'intirely useless and broken and the others untuneable'. A public vestry meeting held on Easter Monday decided what should be done. First, it was decided that the decayed beams and timbers should be replaced with new ones. Second, the five old bells should be taken down and replaced with a tunable peal of eight bells. All the work was done by Thos Bilbie of Chewstock, Culumpton. The total cost of the job was £110 2s 4d broken down as £99 1s 7d for Bilbie, £11 0s 9d for other expenses one being 'liquor for ye men that loded ye bells when carried away 3/6'. Contributions collected at the Easter Monday Vestry Meeting of one guinea or half a guines gave a total of £24 11s 0d raised. It was decided that 'the effects of a pauper lately deceased' and stored in the Parish Chest should be used, this raised £30. This was the largest ring in the country at that time and they were a virgin ring as they had all been cast at the same time. There were several inscriptions made on the eighth bell. In two lines one read "For Christ his flock I aloud do call", "To confess their sins and to be pardoned all". — William Payne Gent. Underneath were the names of the Rector Revd. Mr. John Pitman and churchwardens Edward Collyns Esq. and Mr. Thomas Sarell. The last inscription read "The Bible cast us all". Another record suggests that church warden's names were on another bell.

Alphington's bells were rung in 1685 when Monmouth was taken, in 1687, 1690 and 1693 when the Lord Bishop passed by and in 1704 and 1705 when good news was received from Malbouro.

Mr. Southwood rang his first peal of bells in Alphington Church on the 11th September 1880 and afterwards he presented the Rector and churchwardens with a beautifully carved Oak table.

On Saturday 26th February 1927 the bells pealed for over four hours. Bands of ringers from Exminster, Ide, Kenn, Kenton, Plymouth and Tiverton tried Alphington's bells and they pronounced a favourable verdict upon the rehanging. Ball bearings had been fitted to all the bells and the frames adjusted upon the rehanging. A short service of dedication took place. Mr. J. J. Brewer had organised the visiting bands and the ladies of the church arranged an excellent tea in the Institute.

For some time the bell ringers had said that the bells had become hard to ring and in about 1938 the Church Council sought the opinion of an expert. His report state that the frame and mechanism were seriously out of order and the whole peal needed recasting.

A meeting was held at The Institute on Thursday 6th October 1938 at 8pm to discuss the work of raising money for the restoration of the bells. Mr. Gordon Loram was elected as Hon. Sec. and Mr. Taverner Treasurer of the fund. Dr and Mrs Foulkes held a flower show at Belvill, Miss Marion Heal designed a poster that was displayed near to the church gate; around the edge were 25 bells, every time £20 was raised one of these bells was painted in. Mr. and Mrs Daw held a sale of fruit and vegetables between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on 6th December 1938. The ringers were trying for a half-mile of pennies, which eventually raised £51 2s 5d. In January 1939 Dr Foulkes and the Drame League gave a handsom proportion of the takings from their play Pride and Prejudice. The bell ringers did not call around the Parish with a book for donations to the Alphington Society of Bellringers as they had not been able to ring the bells. They expressed the wish that the ususal subscribers would give some gifts to the Bell Restoration Fund instead.

Miss Newman, the Sunday School teacher, thought of a wonderful scheme for the children. Each child was given a card and they were to fill it in as they collected funds for the bells restoration. When the child had filled in the card they received a silver bell on it. For two cards they filled in they received a real tinkling bell, when they filled in four cards they received a sounding bell. In one week the children brought in £1 5s 9d.

By January 1939 £400 had been raised and by February £425. On 27th February 1939 the bells were removed so that they could be sent to Loughborough for the recasting at a cost of £525 4s 11d. A steel frame was constructed on which to re-hang the bells, as there were problems in obtaining the good quality Oak timber. There was a surprise at Easter that year when bells could be heard from the church. Mr. Rumbelow and Mr. Powlesland had fixed up amplifiers to a gramophone and played a recording of the bells of St. Margaret's, Westminster.

The bells service of rededication took place on Saturday 27th May 1939 at 3 p.m. the address was given by the Lord Bishop of Exeter. During the afternoon there was a garden fete in the Rectory grounds and the weather was perfect. A "bell cake" was designed and made by Miss Mitchell, There was an excellent tea, stalls and side shows were well patronised, Miss Bonus gave a pig for skittling, the races were great fun and there were also Old English Folk Dancers and Sword Dancers.

Small wooden bells were made from the old oak beam from which the bells were once hung.


The wooden bells
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick


Inscribtion on the bottom of the wooden bells
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick

Children from Sunday School, those who gained larger and small bells: 5/- Barbara Grimes, Violet Jackson, Gladys Jago, Mary Marks, June Marks, Lorna Williams, Gladys Rumbelow, Lily Dawkins, Shirley Perkins, Mildred Aggett, Kathleen Robinson, Jean Narramore, June Orr, Pearl Lake, Reg Branton, Ray Branton, David Conway, Alan Bradford, John Aggett, Cyril Rumbelow, Bradley Perkins, Kenneth Perkins, Donald Seward, Basil Thorne, John Selley, Nicholas Sanders. 2/6 Molly Blackmore, Mary Thomas, Doreen Thomas, Harry Pike, John Thomas, Kenneth Thomas, John Grimes, R. and G. Randall.

Alphington Church Bell Fund

Subscriptions
Amount received from 18th October to 12 November 1938 – £47 1s 6d
Thank offering in church 12th November – £234 5s 5d
Half mile of pennies – £51 2s 5d
Dr and Mrs Foulks proceeds of play – £15 0s 0d
Other sums – £139 15s 7d
Proceeds of Fete – £33 0s 0d
Total – £520 4s 11d

Expenses
Messrs Taylor for rehanging bells and chiming apparatus – £450 0s 0d
Mr. G West for cleaning the church – £8 10s 0d
Mrs Moxey cleaning the church – £1 0s 0d
Messrs Thorne and Son for new floor to bell chamber and encasing chiming apparatus – £21 4s 0d
Messrs Lisle and Sons for cleaning clock – £10 12s 6d
Faculty Fee – £5 6s 0d
Printing stationary and stamps – £5 5s 2d
Balance at bank – £18 7s 3d
Total – £520 4s 11d

In 1962 a clapper flew off and pierced the iron frame in three places, this proved to be a costly job for an expert.

The Bell ringing chamber

Prior to 1929 Alphington's bell ringers stood at the very base of the church tower to ring the bells. In 1929 it was decided that bottom of the tower would become the choir vestry and a staging would be erected at the height of the western screen to produce a new ringing chamber. This new chamber would be approached by a staircase from the western door. In 1930 the new ringing chamber had been in use since July and the ringers were 'well pleased' with it.


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Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick