Horfield Tower Bell Ringers
Horfield Parish Church, Bristol.
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Horfield - an Ancient Parish
The West Tower in the Church Timeline
The Ringing Chamber
The Clock and Bell Chambers
An Historical Enigma
 

 
Horfield - an Ancient Parish
 

The parish of Horfield was once much larger and more important than it is today, with its southern boundary extending all the way to the parish of St. James Barton in the centre of Bristol. The main road going northwards out of Bristol passed the church, and nearby by stood an inn called "the Ship". Horfield Common was formerly frequented by thieves and footpads, and travellers were advised to wait at the inn until there were sufficient numbers to proceed northwards in safety! 

Church from the east, showing the old road in foreground.

All this changed when the turnpike road (now the A38) was constructed in the mid 18th century. The "Ship" inn lost trade, and was demolished. A new one was constructed (the "Wellington"), alongside the turnpike road. The "Wellington" was later destroyed by fire in the 1920s and rebuilt - the structure that you can see today. The old road (pictured above) - now unadopted - can still be seen passing the east side of the church.

The parish church was originally dedicated to St. Andrew - this was later changed to Holy Trinity. Another dedication was also added - to St. Edmund, after the nearby church of that name went out of use. The foundation of the parish church almost certainly dates back more than 1000 years. Its circular churchyard, on top of a hill, suggests pagan origins; and it is quite possible that St Augustine, or one of his followers, had a church built on the site. The church was rebuilt, probably in the early 13th century, in the Early English style.

 
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The West Tower in the Church Timeline
 

The West Tower is in the Perpendicular style and is thought to date to around 1450 or possibly earlier, (notwithstanding that the date "1612" is carved into its south-west buttress).

In 1831 the  roof, nave and chancel and were demolished and replaced. There were further alterations in 1847, and the choir vestry was added in 1887.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1893, the south transept was completed in 1913. The north transept, sacristy, and organ chamber were completed  in 1927

Part of the old circular churchyard was lost when Wellington Hill was widened in 1937

The West Tower is the oldest part of the church visible today. The three oldest bells were cast in 1773, so were presumably hung on or soon after this date.

The West Tower

 
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The Ringing Chamber
 

The bells are rung from a ringing chamber on the first floor of the tower,  accessed via a flight of wooden stairs and a trap door. The floor area is very small, being only 10ft 3in x 7ft 6ins (overall). The bells are arranged for ringing in the normal (i.e. clockwise) direction.

Two angels are depicted in stained glass in the upper part of the the west window of the ringing chamber. On the east side of the ringing chamber is large arched diamond-latticed window, which provides a good view down into the nave of the church. 

West Window of Ringing Chamber

 
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The Clock and Bell Chambers
 

Above the ringing chamber is the Clock Chamber, accessed via a moveable ladder. The Tower Clock (mechanically wound) presents a single clock-face to the south side of the tower. Above the clock chamber is the Bell Chamber (or Belfry) - also accessed via a moveable ladder.

 
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An Historical Enigma
 
There is an interesting enigma concerning the date of the tower (circa 1450) and the date of the oldest bells (1773). Church towers were built primarily to house bells, so it seems strange that 323 years should have been allowed to elapse before installing them. So did the 1773 bells replace an earlier set?

If bells were installed soon after the tower was built, they probably would not have required complete replacement after 323 years of use, so this seems unlikely. However, there are known examples (during the civil war) of bells being removed by Cromwell's troops and melted down to make munitions. If there was an earlier set, it might have suffered a similar fate - perhaps at the time of the siege of Bristol (1645).

A search of the old parish records (held in the city archives) might reveal the answer.

 
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