The Towers and Bells of Devon
By John G M Scott, Frank D Mack and James M Clarke
Published in 2007 in two volumes by The Mint Press, price £75.
Available from Stevens Books at Taddyforde House South, Taddyforde Estate, New North Road, Exeter. Tel: 01392 459760
or your local book shop quoting ISBN 9781903356449.
Devon people are very fortunate in many ways, particularly those with an interest in its bells, clocks and churches. Few counties have an up-to-date book on the subject; most previous studies having been published between fifty and a hundred years ago. In fact the only previous comprehensive study of Devon bells took place in 1864/5. Ringers will be aware of the number of changes that must have taken place since then, and many have long looked forward to a new survey.
Devon was again fortunate over 50 years ago, when a new priest came to the Diocese of Exeter to commence many years of service to it. Whilst born in London into a naval family, John Scott considered himself Devonian; he was certainly brought up and lived all of his adult life here. John became interested in bells and ringing whilst at university and whilst his history studies there were interrupted by service as a naval rating during the WW2, his return took him into the study of Divinity.
In 1961, on the death of Preb. Ernest Cox, John became the Diocesan Advisory Committee’s bell advisor. As befits someone with an historical “bent”, he began to record the details of each bell and installation that he came across whilst undertaking these duties. This work was to form the basis of his “magnum opus”. This interest took John on to the national arena with long-standing membership of the Towers & Belfries Committee of the CCCBR, and to the Bells Sub-Committee of The Council for the Care of Churches, amongst others.
When the late Frank Mack joined John to assist in his Diocesan duties, and visits were organised to collect information on those bells not so far gathered, the possibility of a new book began to arise. On Frank’s death, his place was taken by James Clarke who continued to encourage John to publish his work. The final spur to publish was when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and he realised that his time was limited. It was particularly pleasing that he was able to complete the work and enjoy the plaudits before he was taken from us.
The price will no doubt put off some possible subscribers, but if you enjoy a good history book then this one is for you; it will last you a lifetime and is very entertaining. In volume 1, John writes about the towers, bells, frames, founders, ringers and clocks. His work on uncovering more of the lives and work of the west-country founders in particular, has been widely recognised in archaeological circles. Volume 2 lists all of the buildings of which we have details of bell(s), and as much information as is available about them.
Modern technology allows us the possibility of keeping the information in the book, up-to-date; as our predecessor Revd. Ellacombe could not do. Hence the Errata and Addenda sheets will be regularly updated by me and, I hope, my successors.
James M. Clarke.