Horfield Tower Bell Ringers

Horfield Parish Church, Bristol.


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Snapshot 2014 - by Ella Davies
Snapshot 2013 - by Ella Davies
Snapshot 2009 - by Katy Murdoch-Davis
A Tribute to a Horfield Ringer - Don Helliwell
Report on Association Training Day 2008
Minutes of Meetings
Downloading and Printing Minutes
List of Contributors to this Website

Snapshot 2014 - by Ella Davies 

We’ve had another eventful year up the tower. In the summer we said goodbye to Ross, a University student who left the area after successfully graduating. We have benefited a lot over the years from student ringers living in the area and just as Ross was leaving for pastures new, in walked Fred, an engineering apprentice, who has been an enthusiastic addition to the team.  In the autumn we said goodbye to Carey, a longstanding team member who has moved out of Bristol. In recent years he had taken on the responsibility of Steeple keeper and key holder and was always to be relayed upon for Sunday service ringing. We wish him well and hope he finds a good local tower near his new home. 

This year the church kindly installed a new ladder for us to access the bells and this was put to good use straight away when we rang the bells half muffled for remembrance Sunday in November.

We managed to ring for all the weddings which required bells in 2013 and though on occasions we have been short of a ringer or two on a Sunday either due to holidays or illness we have had at least 4 bells ringing for service each week.

This year one of our aims as a tower was to ring a method call Stedman. It is one of the most tuneful and oldest ringing methods; in fact 2013 was the tercentenary of the composer, Fabian Stedman’s death. In the autumn we were nominated for and won Bristol Branch Tower of the Year due to our achievements in ringing new methods as a team this year. This means we now go on to the regional Tower of the Year competition.

Recently we have had a new recruit, Cameron who is progressing well and as always we are happy to take enquiries from anyone who would like to know more about the Horfield bells or have a go at church bell ringing. 

Snapshot 2013 - by Ella Davies 

2012 was a busy year in the Horfield bell tower. We managed to ring all 5 bells for the majority of Sunday services, with the exception of some Sundays in the summer when people were away and during the time of the clock restoration in the autumn, when both service ringing and Monday practice nights couldn’t take place. We have also rung for a number of weddings, including one where the bride and majority of congregation arrived on motorbikes, which was a very memorable sight.

In a year of national celebration we rang for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the June Bank Holiday Monday. 4 regular Horfield ringers were joined by 3 guest ringers to ring before the Friends of Horfield Common Diamond Jubilee Picnic. We had an appreciative audience, with one little girl standing just outside the bell tower, asking for “more bells please!” during a short break. After the ringing, we all headed over to the Common to join in the picnic and celebrations in the sunshine.  

Horfield Tower is a member of the Bristol Branch of Bell Ringers, which is made up of 14 active towers and around 120 members. The Bristol Branch holds regular ringing events, including a monthly practice session rotating around local towers.  In April the Horfield Ringers hosted one of these sessions. It was well attended and provided us with an opportunity to ring some different methods. Horfield is the only tower in Bristol with 5 bells, so for many ringers it is a unique tower to visit.

We are progressing well as a team of ringers and are always happy to take enquiries from anyone who would like to know more about the Horfield bells and bell ringing. 


Snapshot 2009 - by Katy Murdoch-Davis
We had another good year up in the tower and all worked hard to keep the bells ringing. We did lose some of our ringers but currently have two learners Chloe and Meg who are both making steady progress. We also have had many visitors including several university students; ringing visitors are always welcomed.

We attempted to ring a quarter peal, but unfortunately were unsuccessful twice; we hope to be have success later in the year.

Jeanne’s accident was a great blow to us all in the tower. Her absence made us appreciate all what she does, she was sorely missed. We all had to pull together to cover her many tasks and duties; Katy helped with the training and Joan and Cary temporarily held the tower keys. We were especial grateful to Cary one of our new ringers who helped out with weddings and dutifully opened and locked the tower when required. With grit determination Jeanne made a miraculous and speedy recovery and is now thankfully back up the tower.

A Tribute to a Horfield Ringer - Don Helliwell
Horfield Tower is sad to announce the loss of its most senior ringer and former tower captain, Don Helliwell.
Don had rung at Horfield since the mid-1960s when the bells were restored, and took over as tower captain immediately following the restoration. He was also a churchwarden at Horfield in the period 1972-1973. As well as ringing at other towers (including St. Mary, Redcliffe), he rang regularly at Horfield - right up until a few weeks before he died, on 3rd March 2008, aged 88. Don Helliwell During World War II, the ringing of church bells was prohibited, as this was reserved for the purpose of signalling that an invasion was taking place. Notwithstanding the latter, special dispensation was given to celebrate the Allied victory at El Alamain, and Don  was one of the ringers who took part in that victory ringing, when stationed in Kent on military service.
1919 - 2008

Don’s funeral took place on Friday, 14th March. The church was full to capacity, and the bells were half-muffled for the occasion. Twenty ringers attended, and most took part in the ringing. Apart from Horfield, the other Bristol towers represented were: St. Mary (Redcliffe), St. Mary the Virgin (Henbury),  Holy Trinity (Westbury-on-Trym) and Holy Nativity (Knowle). Ringers included the current Horfield tower captain (Philip Naylor) and two former Horfield tower captains (Roy Tallis and Andrew Smith).

The bells were rung six times in Don’s honour: Rounds, Plain Hunt, Bob Doubles and call changes were rung immediately before the service - followed of course by the tolling of the tenor. Rounds and Bob Doubles were rung just after the service.

Don will be sadly missed by all – including of course his fellow ringers at the Horfield tower. Here are some personal tributes from them:

Don was a remarkable man; he had a lovely nature with easy humour and witty stories. I was always very impressed with his ringing ability, he had a truly amazing memory and concentration span which was clearly better then many ringers his junior. He was kind and tentative to Alice, my daughter our youngest ringer, with several decades in age difference between them; it was rather potent to see their special relationship. He was the epitome of a perfect gentleman.

Katy Murdoch-Davis

Whenever I walked up the steps into Horfield bell tower, if Don was there you could guarantee you would be met with a cheery smile and greeting, he was patient teacher and someone I can't imagine anyone saying a bad word against. I also remember his good humour, often telling jokes on a practice night. He will be dearly missed.

 - David Dowding

My "tribute to Don" will never do justice to the big-hearted man who took me under his wing as I fell under the spell of "the bells". He taught me how to ring, and was so patient with my poor handling - always encouraging me to carry on. He had a knowledge of many aspects of life which we shared: a man of the earth, turning his has to many tasks.  Repairing bell-stays was only one of them. I also shared the fruits of his many hours of labour from his allotment and garden. Betty and Don always made me feel at home when visiting, and I will always be grateful for their support over many years.

- Jeanne Fairman


Report on Association Training Day 2008
On March 8th a small group from Horfield tower ventured up the M5 to Tewkesbury for the annual training day. The group included Philip, David, Alice and myself; we were all were going to spend the entire day ringing nothing but plain hunt doubles. Alice was a student and the rest of us were helpers, in fact I was asked to lead the basic plain hunt doubles course. Which after an element of terror, I accepted.

My group consisted of five students, including Alice and seven helpers which included David and myself. Our first tower was Ashchurch, and after a brief nervous start and instructions we started a series of several courses of plain hunt. We rang all morning with the students taking turns to ring, with the help, support and advice from their designated helpers. 

We had a well earned lunch and rest in a local pub, which was a good chance to get to know each other better. After lunch our afternoon tower was Deerhurst, which is unusual as the ringing chamber is contained with two adjoining rooms. Again we rang many rounds of plain hunt, with a few surprise changes to make life more interesting and terrifying for the students.

All the students and helpers had a really fun but tiring day with loads of chatting and laughter, and also most importantly plenty of good ringing! Everyone had a really good successful day and had achieved many personal goals. 

After tea and cakes, the highlight of day was the opportunity to ring at the truly inspiring and impressive Tewksbury Abbey. I was incredibly proud of our group as we all took the opportunity and had a ring. It was a very long, tiring but enjoyable day.

Katy Murdoch-Davis


Tewkesbury Abbey in 1840


Minutes of Meetings
Meeting Year Date of Meeting Download
Day Month Year
AGM 2010 17th January  2011
AGM 2009 18th January  2010
AGM 2008 19th January  2009
AGM 2007 21st January  2008

Downloading and Printing Minutes
If Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed on your computer, the minutes of any meeting (in .pdf file format) can be viewed (and if required, printed) by clicking the icon on the right. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your computer, you can download it free-of-charge from www.adobe.com
List of Contributors to this Website
The webmaster would like to thank all those who have supplied material for this website:
David Dowding Horfield Video of ringing practice at Horfield.
David Dowding Horfield List of methods rung at Horfield.
Jeanne Fairman Horfield Photographs taken on tower tours.
Anthony Franklin Horfield/Henbury Sound clips of the Horfield bells.
Anthony Franklin Horfield/Henbury Article - Learning to Ring with a Band of Ringers.
Grant Glanville (Non-ringer) Song - "The Egloshayle Ringers".
Don Helliwell (deceased) Horfield Ten Commandments for the Bellringer.
Bernie Maddalena Horfield Photographs taken on tower tours.
Alice Murdoch-Davis Horfield Video of ringing at Tewkesbury Abbey
Katy Murdoch-Davis Horfield AGM Minutes.
Katy Murdoch-Davis Horfield Report on Tewkesbury Training Day 2008.
Philip Naylor Horfield Photographs of the Horfield bells.
Philip Naylor Horfield Photograph of tower window.
John Shaw & Olga Shotton (Non-ringers) Song - "The Ringers of Chew"

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