Horfield Tower Bell Ringers
Horfield Parish Church, Bristol.
The Bells

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Details of the Bells
Layout of the Bells
Pictures and Sounds of the Bells
The Angelus and Tower Clock Bells
The Former Ellacombe Hammers
History of the Bells (incomplete)
Circa 1450
1773
1807
1965 (Tuesday, 31st August)
1966 (Friday, 28th October)
Mid-1970s
1979 (Wednesday, 24th October)
1982 (January)
1997 (Monday, 11th August)
1998 (Thursday, 12th March)
1998 (Wednesday, 20th May)
2007 (Saturday, 10th March)
2008 (March)
Inscriptions on the Bells
Notes on the Inscriptions
Notes on the Bellfounders
  

  
Details of the Bells
  
 
No. Note Weight Diameter Date Founder Foundry
Cwt Qr Lbs
1 F 4 2 24 26.75" 1807 John Rudhall  Gloucester, Glos.
2 Eb 3 3 8 27.00" 1773 Abraham Bilbie Chew Stoke, Som.  
3 D 4 2 25 28.50" 1773 Abraham Bilbie Chew Stoke, Som.  
4 C 5 0 3 31.00" 1896 Mears & Stainbank Whitechapel, London
5 Bb 6 3 14 34.00" 1773 Abraham Bilbie Chew Stoke, Som.  
 
In accordance with tradition, the weights of bells listed above have been given in Imperial units -  hundredweights (Cwts),  quarters (Qrs) and pounds (Lbs). For those (perhaps younger) persons unfamiliar with these old units, 28 Lbs= one Qr, 4 Qrs = one Cwt and 20 Cwts = one (UK) ton (or 1016 kilograms).
 
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Layout of the Bells
 

North Wall

Plan of Belfry (Not to Scale)

(Arrows indicate direction of swing)

 
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Pictures and Sounds of the Bells
 
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Bell No. 1 (Treble)

Bell No. 2

Bell No. 3

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Please click to ring bell ...

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Bell No. 4 Bell No. 5 (Tenor)
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Please click to ring bell ...

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Click any bell icon, to hear the actual sound of a the bell being chimed when down. Click any ringing icon to hear the actual sound of the bell being rung from the up position (hand stroke and back stroke). You will notice that the note has much less resonance when the bell is rung than when it is chimed, as the sustain is inhibited by the clapper being against the inside of the bow of the bell.
 
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The Angelus and Tower Clock Bells
 

Bell No. 4 also the Angelus Bell - used to signal the recitation of the Angelus during Mass. It is sounded using a separate rope positioned near the east side of the ringing  chamber. The rope operates a mechanism that causes a hammer to strike the inside of the bell.

Bell No. 5 (Tenor) is also the Tower Clock Bell. The clock mechanism causes a hammer to  strike the outside of the bell, striking once for each hour. This hammer must be disabled before full-circle ringing.

 
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The Former Ellacombe Hammers

 

At one time, all the bells were fitted with Ellacombe Hammers

(Ellacombe apparatus is a method for performing change ringing of church bells requiring only one person. Using this system, the bells are kept static and a hammer is struck against the inside of the bell. Each hammer is connected by a rope to a fixed frame in the ringing chamber. The ropes are taut, so pulling one of the ropes will strike the hammer against the bell. The apparatus was invented by the Reverend Henry Thomas Ellacombe of Gloucestershire, who first had such a system installed in the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Bitton in 1821. It is thought that he created the system to make bell ringers redundant, as he did not like their unruly behaviour).
Bitton is only 7  miles (11.65 km) distant from Horfield, so it is quite likely that the apparatus was installed soon after 1821, though the date of installation is not known. Similarly, it is not known when this apparatus removed. However, the slots in the ceiling of the ringing chamber (through which the Ellacombe ropes passed) can still be seen today.
 
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History of the Bells (incomplete)
 
As church towers were built primarily to house bells, it is possible that a ring of bells was installed soon after the construction of the tower (circa 1450), but later removed and melted down for munitions by Cromwell's troops during the Civil War. (This is known with certainty to have happened in some areas). However, research undertaken in the course of creating this web site has found no evidence of any early installation or removal of bells at Horfield. Any information concerning rings of bells in the tower before 1773 would be gratefully received.
In 1773 (or soon after) a ring of (probably) four bells (cast by Abraham Bilbie) was installed in the tower. (Three of these are still in place today).

Whether this was a first-time installation of bells, or a replacement of an earlier ring, is not known.

Treble

1

Eb

  2 D
  3 C
Tenor 4 Bb
In 1807 (or soon after) it would seem that this arrangement was converted to a ring of five by the addition of an F bell (cast by John Rudhall), the latter becoming the new treble.

It is possible that the tower was hung in 1773 as ring of five, and that this was just a replacement. However, this seems unlikely, as the treble rope is positioned rather inconveniently above the trap door that gives access to the ringing chamber.

Treble

1

F

  2 Eb
  3 D
  4 C
Tenor 5 Bb

The period 1808 to 1964 (156 years)  is something of a "Dark Ages" regarding the history of the bells. Research undertaken in the course of creating this web site has (so far) revealed nothing. Any information concerning events in this period would be gratefully received.

In 1965 (Tuesday, 31st August),  John C. Slater, of Broadway Road, Bishopston (a Bristol Cathedral ringer and hobbyist bell restorer) visited the tower. He carried out a thorough inspection of the bells, and produced a very detailed report. He estimated that the commercial cost of carrying out all of the the required works would be in excess of 2000. Presumably, the church was unable to meet this cost.

Undeterred, Mr. Slater, (aided by a team of helpers) carried out most of the required work on a voluntary basis for the princely sum of 9 10s (9.50)! Working five evenings a week, this task took four months, and even involved setting up a lathe for metal turning in the ringing chamber. Evidence from Mr. Slater's papers suggests that he (and possibly some of his team) had acquired the necessary engineering experience as employees of Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd, Filton (the latter company was taken over by Rolls-Royce Ltd in 1970). Mr. Slater and his team also braced the bell frame, with the recommendation that it would require complete replacement at a later date.

The work was completed in 1966 (Friday, 28th October), just in time for the city branch of the Gloucestershire and Bristol Association's fourth bell-ringing festival (involving 31 churches, including Horfield) - which took place on the following day.

In the mid-1970s the bells were re-hung, and the canons removed.

In 1979 (Wednesday, 24th October) a belfry adviser, Anthony J. Cox of Malmesbury visited the tower. He carried out a thorough inspection of the bells, and produced a detailed report. He noted a number of faults, the most significant being that No.4 bell was poised in a precarious position, having been dislodged from its bearings (presumably, during ringing). He also noted a casting flaw in this bell (it did in fact develop a crack, some 18 years later). His recommendations included an immediate bar on access to the belfry, and a prohibition of any ringing or chiming - including the clock! He also recommended that all bells should have their crown staples removed and be quarter-turned - with a rider that a future complete re-hanging should be considered.

In 1982 (January) the bells were removed from the tower, and taken by lorry to a foundry in Derby to be refurbished. According to a contemporary newspaper account, the cost was estimated at 11,500 - half of which had been raised by donations from parishioners, with the balance to funded by a loan. Later that year, the bells were reinstalled in the tower, and re-hung on oak wheels in a new metal frame. The newspaper account includes a picture of the bells when they were taken down, showing the original wooden headstocks and plain bearings. A part of one of these headstocks may still be seen in the churchyard (next to the railings above the boiler-room door).

In 1997 (Monday, 11th August), during a ringing practice, the Bilbie "C" bell developed a crack, and ringing at the tower consequently ceased.

As part of the Ringing in the Millennium project, at the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, South Petherton, Somerset it was decided to replace the poor-sounding ring of eight with a newly-cast ring of twelve. Four of the old South Petherton bells were made available via the Keltek Trust for re-hanging elsewhere. The old South Petherton treble is now the treble of the ring of four bells at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire. The old sixth bell is now hung for chiming at St Mary of Furness, Barrow-in-Furness. The old tenor bell has been hung for chiming at St Charles of Borromeo, Detroit, USA. The old second bell was allocated to Horfield

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, South Petherton.

St Peter and St Paul

In 1998 (Thursday, 12th March) the cracked fourth bell was removed from the Horfield tower and subsequently replaced by the old South Petherton second - allowing ringing to resume once again.

In 1998 (Wednesday, 20th May) a set of new ropes (with pre-stretched polyester top ends, and wine-coloured sallies) was ordered by the tower captain (Don Helliwell) from Eayre & Smith Ltd., of Derby. The delivery time was quoted as being at least six to eight weeks, so these ropes were presumably fitted in the summer of that year. The total cost was 530 (106 per rope).

In 2007 (Saturday, 10th March) the bell ropes were replaced again.

In 2008 (March) one of the 1998 Horfield ropes was donated to a neighbouring church - (St. Alban's , Westbury Park, Bristol) for use with their turret chiming bell.

 
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Inscriptions on the Bells
 
Existing Bells 1 I Parker C.Warden 1807 John Rudhall Gloucester Fect.
 
2 Fear God + Honr. The King A.B.F. 1773
 
3 ABM.B.F. + Thos Francombe + Thos.Jenkins 1773 Hangers
 
4

Mears & Stainbank. Founders. London 1896

In Memory of Edward George Ruscombe Pool  
Born January 10th 1882 Died October 16th 1894
 
5

George the IIId King. Defender of the Faith + Dr Newton  

Lord B.P. of Bristol 1773 A.B.F. John Shadwell Esqr. Lord of 
the Manor of Horfield
 
Replaced Bell 4 Thomas Sweeting. Churchwarden ABM Bilbie Fecit 1773
 
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Notes on the Inscriptions

 
C.Warden Churchwarden
John Rudhall John Rudhall, Founder, Gloucester
Fect. Abbreviation for Fecit
Fecit Made by (Latin)
Honr. Abbreviation for Honour
A.B.F. Abraham Bilbie, Founder, Chew Stoke, Somerset
ABM.B.F Abraham Bilbie, Founder, Chew Stoke, Somerset
Thos Abbreviation for Thomas
Edward George Ruscombe Pool   Edward George Ruscombe Poole , member of a well-known South Petherton family.

Dr Newton Lord B.P

Dr. Thomas Newton (1704-1782). Lord Bishop of Bristol 1761 to 1782, and also named Dean of St. Pauls Cathedral in 1768.
John Shadwell Esqr

John Shadwell Esquire, who became Lord of the Manor of Horfield following his marriage to Isabella Mitchell (members of  the Mitchell family having previously held the lordship).

ABM Abraham (Bilbie)
 
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Notes on the Bellfounders
 
Abraham Bilbie The Bilbie family were bell founders and clockmakers based initially in Chew Stoke, Somerset and also later at Cullompton, Devon in south-west England, from the late 1600s to the early 1800s.
The business was started by Edward Bilbie. Edward had two sons, Edward and Thomas. Edward died before he was able begin bell founding, and the business was continued by Thomas Bilbie. One of his sons, also Thomas, set up a new foundry at Cullompton, Devon, while his other son, Abraham took over the Chew Stoke foundry. Chew Stoke village sign.
The Chew Stoke foundry was unable to survive in the face of reduced demand, and closed in the early 1800s. However, some of the original buildings remain, and a bell is featured on the village sign.
John Rudhall The Gloucester foundry was started by Abraham Rudhall (1657-1736), the earliest known examples of his work being a peal of five bells at Oddington, dated 1684.  His  foundry is thought  to have been on the corner of Archdeacon Street and Westgate Street

Abraham Rudhall's son was also called Abraham (c.1680-1735).  By 1722 he was casting bells on his own account at his own foundry near where the post office now stands in King's Square. His  son, Abel, carried on the foundry until his death in 1760. Abel Rudhall was succeeded by his younger sons Thomas (1744-1783) and Charles (1747-1815). Charles lived in Brighton and left his half brother John (1759-1835) to run the foundry.
Mears & Stainbank Whitechapel Bell Foundry is Britain's oldest manufacturing company, having been established in 1570 and still in existence today. 

The Mears family were  founders from 1781-1865; the last being George Mears, who retired in 1865 and died soon after. Robert Stainbank was George Mears' successor - hence the name "Mears & Stainbank".

Alfred Lawson was the founder from 1884-1904, so the current Horfield 4th was cast during his time.

 
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