RINGING ROUND DEVON is the quarterly newsletter of The Guild of Devonshire Ringers, and is circulated free to all affiliated towers.
Any individual members who wish to subscribe should contact Lester Yeo. The cost is £2.50 for four issues (cheques made payable to Guild of Devonshire Ringers). It is also available on line on the Guild's website at http://www.exeter.ac.uk/gdr/ .
Any comments and inaccuracies in articles contained in this newsletter are the responsibility of the individual contributors, and the opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the Guild.
Items for inclusion may be sent to [email protected] .
Monday 15 October
James: By the way, Joan, I've volunteered us as the judges for the six bell Guild Competition on Saturday.
Joan: You haven't! You know what happened last time. I had a headache for the next three days.
Saturday 20 October: 5.30am
Joan (thinks): Clip-board. Where did I put the clip-board?
James (thinks): Coffee. Must take a flask of coffee. And biscuits. I know I haven't eaten the last one. Must stop off at Sainsbury's beforehand.
What a beautiful day. Sun shining and we have blue skies. However the judging will have to take place in the farm courtyard. The heavy rain during the previous day means we have to walk through three inches of mud (well, we think that's what it is!). Thank goodness for the Saturday Telegraph. The Sports and Arts section come in very handy on the floor of the car in order to protect the light beige carpet from our muddy feet. We have a new car - did anyone notice?
Say hello to Wendy and agree procedures for the contest. Oh! And check the rules (not that we want to be too serious about it: ie Rule One: there are no rules. Rule Two: see rule one)
This is a lovely spot to judge from. We can keep the care windows open. The place is teeming with bird life, only there is not time to look now, the first team is ready to start.
A good effort on these difficult bells which have the added complication of super-long tail-ends.
James: Joan! Look over there! I'm sure that is a woodpecker but I am not sure which one, the light is all wrong. Wait a minute. I will stick my head out of the window. Oh sh...ame. A bird has done its business on my head.
Joan: Well, you can't do anything about it now, the next team is about to start their test piece.
James: Do you think we have time for a cup of coffee?
Joan: If we made just one cup, we can share it.
James: Blast it. The next team is ready to start. What shall I do with this cup of coffee?
Joan: Throw it out the window quickly!
This ringing is very good for these bells, in fact very good for any bells.
James: I'm sure the last team rang Cambridge for their practice touch and then rang London as their test piece. Cheeky!
Joan: Show offs. Lovely striking though. I only gave them nine faults.
James: Nine faults! Are you sure. I gave them fifty.
Joan: You're too critical!
James: You're deaf!
The last team is ready to start.
James: I've lost my pencil!
Joan: It's behind your ear.
James: Don't mess about, woman. Which ear?
Finished. All over the another year. Now where are the aspirin?
Announce the results and wait for the reaction. Nothing too violent, so we must have got it about right.
And still nobody has been over to admire our new car!
James and Joan Clarke
Just for the record, here is the verdict of the North Devon jury:
First: 29 faults Exeter St Mark
2nd 66 faults Withycombe Raleigh
3rd 76 faults Stoke Damerel
4th 96 faults Tiverton St Peter
The team ringing for Tavistock nobly owned up to having an 'outsider' in their team and were therefore not placed. We should say 'Well done' for having a go anyway especially as they rang so well.
Two welcome recent additions to the team at Stoke-in-Teignhead are Farmer Colin Horton and his lovely wife Sue. Sue is proving herself most proficient at bell handling but Colin has been temporarily left behind following a chapter of incidents, beginning with the morning when a spike on a a tractor towing arm dropped, not only piercing his wellie but straight through his foot as well; it was only after a trip to Ashburton and back that Colin decided to investigate only to find he had wellie full of blood and a foot with a hole in it. Colin (The Cow Man) made light of it and quickly recovered after the indignity of being pushed around in a wheel chair and it was not long before he was up a ladder working on his farmhouse roof, only to fall off, narrowly missing concrete when he landed, but fracturing his wrist, which has since had to be pinned. The accident resulted in his fingers swelling and necessitated the removal of his wedding ring which has since been repaired and restored by Melissa Mc.Gladdery, a jeweller and fellow learner ringer. at Stoke.
It was following a Thursday night practice at Stoke and during refreshments at Melissa's house (the pub being too expensive) that Sue asked recently retired Rector Bob Southwood if he would ask God's blessing on the restored ring before she gave it back to Colin. Bob readily agreed and the ring was solemnly blessed before Sue replaced on her husband's now less swollen finger with the words, 'I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage' etc. and Colin was then invited to give his wife a kiss, to the delight of everyone present. The occasion then developed into something of a wedding reception, with the ladies donning hats and the men in makeshift buttonholes, to join together for a pictorial record of the occasion.
The picture shows Colin and Sue with Bob after the blessing and placing of the ring.
Everyone knows that when a person retires from full-time employment they just potter around at home and have lots and lots of spare time. Or do they? Not if they are ringers, and certainly not if they enjoy quarter peal ringing. There are a number of quarter peal bands in Devon and they meet regularly, once a week, once every two weeks or once a month. Very often two quarter peals are rung on the day they meet, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with the added enjoyment of a pub lunch. During the pub lunch the person who has arranged the towers for the day and paid the donations, collects £2 from each of the other ringers.
On one occasion Alan Edwards had arranged the towers and after the main course in the pub the other ringers passed their £2 to him. He then decided he would like to have a pudding and went off to order one. Two ladies sitting at the next table had been watching the ringers with interest and as Alan left the table one was heard to remark to the other "Did you see that? That poor man. All the others had to give him some money so that he could afford a pudding."
Since that time the £2 has become known as "pudding money".
On one recent occasion Alan decided he would order a pudding, but this time he met his match, when a large soup bowl full of ice cream was put in front of him. Not to be outdone (after all his reputation as a pudding eater was at stake) he struggled through it, getting slower and slower and complaining that it was very cold. It was pointed out to him that that was why it was called ice cream and not hot cream. He then remarked that his head was getting very cold. The accompanying "verse" and cartoon tell the rest of the story.
ALAN'S LIKING FOR PUDS IS RENOWNED
BUT ICE CREAM'S TOO COLD, HE HAS FOUND
"WITH NO HAIR FOR A COVER
MY HEAD'S FREEZING OVER"
SO WITH MIKE'S KERCHIEF HAT HE WAS CROWNED.
The Guild is a society with charitable status, and its members pay a yearly subscription. This is how each pound of that subscription was spent last year:
30p went towards the running cost of the member's branch (some branches do not use all their proportion of the subscription and pass it to Guild funds).
18p went towards bell restoration. As a charity, the Guild is committed to support restoration projects within the county, and each year, a sum is given to the Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund which acts on the Guild's behalf. Members and branches also raise money for bell restoration, and this money is passed to the DCBRF, which is an independent charity.
15p went towards paying for the annual report. That means that for adult members of the Guild, the cost of the report was a mere 60p! As well as being the report on the year's activities presented at the annual meeting, the annual report also acts as a directory of Guild towers and a source of useful information.
7p went towards recruitment. The Guild and Association produced a recruitment leaflet which is being made available to members and branches, with the intention that more people may want to learn to ring.
6p went towards the Guild's newsletter, 'Ringing Round Devon'. Each affiliated tower receives a copy and a number of people subscribe which helps offset costs.
5p went towards the cost of advertising Guild events in the Ringing World. Each branch is entitled to place advertisements for its activities, which are paid for out of Guild funds.
4p went towards administrative costs. This includes the cost of holding the Festival, which is the Guild's major training event, when the AGM takes place.
3p went towards the cost of belonging to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, the parliament of ringers throughout the world. The Devon Guild is one of the founding societies of the CC. This figure includes both the subscription to the council, and the expenses paid to Guild representatives.
1p went towards the cost of the Guild library, which contains a wide selection of books on bells and ringing, including back numbers of 'The Ringing World', which are available for reference by Guild members.
1p went towards other expenses (e.g. membership of the Friends of the Cathedral), and 10p went into the Guild's funds as a contingency. Careful readers will note that these figures are only approximate, and that expenditure varies from year to year.
The church of St Andrew has probably been existence for more than 1200 years and was originally a low building hiding behind Plymouth Hoe and serving the inhabitants of the fishing hamlet of Sutton. The tower has been an important symbol of strength for the citizens of Plymouth for more than 500 years; and coincidentally the Plymouth city motto is "The Lord is a strong tower". At 136 feet high the tower has for centuries dominated the city centre skyline, and during the blitz of March 1941 when incendiary bombs destroyed the rest of the church, the tower with its undamaged bells survived as a symbol of hope for the future.
Records of the bells date back to about 1507 but the original documentation is unclear. In 1594 five bells were installed to commemorate the return of Sir Francis Drake after his successful circumnavigation of the globe. It is believed that cannons from Drake's and Hawkins's ships or those captured from the Spanish were melted down to cast these bells, which were hung in a wooden cage. The bells were recast into a ring of six in 1631 and in 1709 Colonel Jory paid for the ring to be recast while adding a treble. In 1733 the second heaviest bell was badly damaged resulting in it having to be recast once again. John Pennington who came from a well-known Cornish bell founding family undertook this work. This ring was a heavy one and the tenor cracked in 1749. Thomas Bilbie of Cullompton recast them into a ring of eight, with a tenor weighing 35 cwt, 1 qr and 17 lbs. Three years later the two heaviest bells fell through the upper floors of the tower into the ringing room, causing considerable damage to the fabric of the tower but luckily not hurting anyone or damaging the bells! Another notable event happened in December 1839 when Bilbie's tenor was cracked. This bell was recast by Thomas Mears some 31 pounds lighter than its predecessor and was rehung in the tower in July 1840. The ring was augmented to ten by the gift of two trebles from Edward Bates MP in 1874, these bells remaining in the tower until the present restoration. In 1897 John Warner and Sons removed the canons from the back eight, and rehung the bells in an iron frame which was installed above the original timber frame. In 1926 Mears and Stainbank undertook the last major overall. Sir Thomas Baker contributed generously to the cost of those works, which included the fitting of new bearings, rehanging the bells and the renovation of the clock.
Harry Myers was appointed Tower Captain in 1912 and was succeeded by his sons Tom and Bill all of whom maintained the bells until Bill's retirement in 1992. Since then routine maintenance being undertaken by the ringers themselves, an alarming deterioration in the condition of the bells made ringing increasingly difficult raising the urgency for restoration. In 1996 a bell restoration fund was set up aiming to raise £40,000 to finance the necessary work. Fergus Stracey, Kevin & Anne Morris, Carolyn Watts, Heather Chapman and Roger Compton headed this. One of the most successful initiatives was the Commemorative Book where an inscription can be inserted by a local calligrapher for a minimum donation of £10. This book was commissioned when the project started and will close after the Rededication Service. The intention is then to display the book within the church as a mark of thanks for the generosity of the people who have helped to restore the last remaining ring of bells within the City of Plymouth.
The project has had to overcome a number of setbacks while raising the necessary funds, namely a failed bid to the millennium commission for match funding and important members of the fundraising team were either relocated due to employment or had to contend with major family illnesses. However, new life was breathed into these efforts when a number of enthusiastic learners joined the band, notably Brian and Christine Lumby who contributed enormously to the refurbishment of the ringing chamber, clock room and belfry.
At the end of 2000 when the fundraising target was only a few thousand pounds away, detailed planning began to commission a schedule of work for the restoration of the bells. In addition a small but encouraging grant were obtained from the Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund. The petition for Faculty was successful and Robert Parker, church bell hanger of Taunton was commissioned to conduct the restoration work. The work was to consist of fitting new headstocks, bearings and clappers and tuning to be carried at Whitechapel Bell Foundry. With the aid of the Keltek the two old trebles were sold to churches in Badsworth in Yorkshire and Tealby in Lincolnshire.
In the first week of June the bells were dismantled, lowered to the church floor and placed on timbers ready for transporting. They finally left for Whitechapel on June 21st. On the 24th September after three months of repairs, the bells were returned to the church. They stayed in the body of the church for a week for the congregation to view them before the rehanging commenced. On Sunday 28th October amidst the clutter of scaffolding, dust sheets, masking tape and a colourful collection of paint tins, the front six were rung for morning service by the local band and a unanimous vote of approval cast for the magnificent work done by the bell hanger.
The inscriptions on the new bells are as follows: - Treble: AD 1874 This bell was the gift of Edward bates, M.P. Charles Thomas Wilkinson, M.A. Vicar Alfred Hingston, J.P. William Radford, J.P. Churchwardens 2001 Whitechapel Second: AD 1874 This bell was the gift of Edward bates, M.P. Charles Thomas Wilkinson, M.A. Vicar Alfred Hingston, J.P. William Radford, J.P. Churchwardens In gratitude, Glory to God Dorothy and Harold Robinson 2001 Whitechapel
The immortal word, which appeared on a board over the north door after the Blitz of 1941 "Resurgam", (I will rise again) sprang to mind.
Two hundred people attended the dedication service, including many ringers from all over the West Country, who agreed that the work is a vast improvement on the old ring. Unfortunately at one point before the service, the tenor rope caught a light fitting, which cam crashing down. In his address, John Scott spoke of the symbolism of the bells as God's involvement in the community, especially in Plymouth where the bells had once been owned by the Town council.
Guild members once again rang a peal at Newton St Cyres to celebrate the birthday of vice-president Reg Bray, who at 99 is thought to be the oldest regular Sunday service ringer - and Tower Captain Bob Coates has a letter from the Guinness Book of Records to prove it!
5040 changes of Grandsire Triples were rung on Saturday 27 October in two hours 36 minutes, and Reg joined some of the band before the attempt to ring a six-score of Grandsire Doubles. Plans are now being made by his family for the celebration of his hundredth birthday next year, and for another peal attempt at Newton to celebrate!
The Exeter Colleges Guild will again be holding its annual dinner at The Thistle Hotel in Exeter when members, friends and guests travel from far and wide for a whole weekend of socialising, ringing and entertainment. This is your chance to renew old acquaintances, catch up with some gossip, and let your hair down with some friends.
Saturday 2nd February 2002 is the date - put it in your diary now! Rough timetable for the weekend as follows: Friday 1 Feb Evening - Drinking in the Imperial. Saturday 2 Feb - Ringing tour around North East Devon (probably!) during the day to which everyone is welcome. Dinner 7pm for 7.30pm. Guest speaker Steve Coleman of "Bedside Companion" fame. Followed by the most important part of the whole weekend... the Barn dance. So bring along your dancing shoes for a thoroughly fun and exhausting evening. Sunday 3 Feb - Normal ringing in the morning at various Exeter towers followed by lunch on the quay. Further ringing during the afternoon.
The Dinner is not just for members of the ECG. It is for anyone who wants to come along. So why not get a group from your tower to join us, or even from your branch. There will be more familiar faces there than you realise!
Tickets are on sale from the beginning of December for the very reasonable rate of £25. This will entitle you to ring at all of the weekend towers, it includes a super 3 course meal, and, of course, the fabulous barn dance. A snip at twice the price!
For further information, please contact either Matthew Hilling ([email protected] or 01395 233562) or Malcolm Evans ([email protected]).
For those of you who haven't recently visited the GDR website, I would urge you to spare a moment of your time to appreciate its sparkling new image. Although implemented some years ago the site has changed little beyond regular updates, so an enthusiastic young designer was persuaded to inject some much-needed glamour and panache in order to bring it in line with the rest of the Guild.
The main purpose of the makeover had relatively little to do with bringing detailed tower information, extensive ringing reports and up-to-the-minute news flashes to the discerning viewer, and far more to do with incorporating snazzy Dreamweaver features and looking funky. I particularly wanted to use the GDR logo as a recurring theme, so it was set as the page background, a menu bar added, blue became the new black and voilą! The website was reborn.
In fact, very little change has been made to the actual content of the site, since its main function is, after all, to enlighten the keen and dedicated ringer whose Guild report has mysteriously vanished down the back of the sofa, not to enthral the random bespectacled websurfer. Hence you will observe that most of the effort is concentrated on the new home page. Unfortunately, the designer's grasp of technology wasn't quite sufficient to include swinging bells, flashing towers and a full peal backing track, but as it stands you will be hard pushed to get the kettle boiling while you wait for it to load.
Finally, thanks must go to Ian Campbell, for creating the original site and continuing to administer his many, many years of wisdom and great intellect; to the University of Exeter, for supplying economy web space; and to Webmaster extraordinaire Matthew Hilling, for helping to turn an artistic but unpredictable concept into a considerably less exciting but far more functional piece of computer-friendly gobbledygook. Without his timely intervention, the entire vision could easily have turned bell-shaped. He and Ian have now reluctantly but officially accepted the awesome responsibility of maintaining and updating the site.
E-mail comments or amusing photos to [email protected] or [email protected]
Frequent litigant George Calvert has issued another complaint against the bells at Down St Mary, even though he no longer lives near the church.
This time he is claiming £50,000 in damages from the former vicar, Anthony Gardiner, the churchwardens, the P.C.C. and the diocesan bishop, because he asserts that the sound of the bells was damaging his health forcing him to move to a flat in Exeter.
According to the Express and Echo, Mr Calvert, who describes himself as a war veteran, explained: "The noise of the bells exacerbated my medical conditions and caused me to be very ill. I used to have to vacate my home and go into my car when the bells rang because the noise and stress could lead to my condition worsening to develop cancer.
"We had an elderly neighbour who would come to tell us how the ding-dong was bothering him. And there were new born babies in the village who were affected. It was not just myself. It was the long sessions that really upset up. Once they even played for ten hours. We have been over tolerant of these people for far too long."
In 1993 Mr Calvert sought an injunction because of alleged noise nuisance from the bells but withdrew it subsequently. In 1997 he took out a private summons against Mr Gardiner but was ruled out on a technicality. He left his cottage in Down St Mary in September 1999, and now lives about 100 feet from St David's, but says he never hears the bells because his double-glazed apartment is on the far side of the building from the tower.
West country competitions tend to be rather serious affairs, but a friendly rivalry has grown up between the St Stephen's, Bristol, ringers and the Exeter Cathedral Society. Whereas last year Exeter had travelled to Bristol and competed in four adjacent towers - a six, an eight, a ten and a twelve - in Bristol city centre, the wartime destruction of the ten at St Sidwell's bell meant that walking between four towers in the old City and County of the City of Exeter was not possible.
Therefore at the end of September, the St Stephen's ringers met the Exeter ringers in The Bell at Thorverton for lunch and crossed the road for the first leg - Grandsire Caters. Double Norwich at Heavitree followed, the Bristol ringers ringing at a very stately pace, knowing the predilection of one of the judges for slow ringing. A peal by each of the teams (sixty-on-thirds) at St Petrock's allowed the Devon boys to show what good striking is like, followed by two touches of Stedman Cinques at the Cathedral.
All the ringers then gathered in the charming setting of the Deanery Hall for refreshments and the results, given by Chris Kippin (with additional comments from Heather). As last year, both teams won two legs, so the competition was declared a draw, nobody was too upset, and the St Stephen's band were given a framed print of old Exeter as a memento of the day.
Don mentions Nick Newby. As Don says Nick lived on the edge of the Lake District and never owned a car. Nevertheless, wherever there was a meeting Nick would turn up having made the journey by train, bus or even on foot if necessary. He was a soft-spoken man and a natural teacher. The LEA classes ran for many years and were very popular.
Jim Blackburn was originally from Chorley but moved up to Cartmel in the Lake District when I was quite small and I remember we used to have Saturday afternoon outings to the area when we would call in and see him and his family. When later on I learned to ring he used to enjoy telling me stories of my grandfather (who sadly died before I was born) and of my mother's early ringing career. He particularly enjoyed the story of her first peal (she swears it is apocryphal!) when her sally was covered in blood by the end, so bad were her blisters. Then, as now, I suppose, ringers were a strange bunch and included characters such as Ben Knights (locally famous as he had been a member of the band who rang 11,111 Stedman Caters at Loughborough parish church) and Roger Martin captain of Preston Parish Church. These two had a long standing feud and refused to speak to each other or be in the same tower together. No-one seemed to know what it was about and I suspect they had forgotten.
Another character who used to visit our branch was Roger Leigh of Accrington in our neighbouring Blackburn branch. Roger hated odd bell ringing and refused to stay in the tower if Grandsire or Stedman were being rung. He augmented Accrington bells from six to eight to ten. He then added one bell and broke his own rule by ringing a peal of Plain Bob Cinques (without a cover bell). They eventually were augmented again and are now a fairly grotty twelve with strange "not quite Yorkshire" tailends.
Mention of methods reminds me that Lancashire was, by and large, even bell territory. The first method learned was Plain Bob Minor and progress was made next to Kent Treble Bob and in many towers stayed there. The pinnacle at these towers would be Oxford Treble Bob. Soon after I started learning, the Lancashire Association Peal bands became pioneers of spliced Surprise ringing and the peals became ever more ambitious.
Norman Smith of Burnley was a brilliant composer (no computers in those days) who produced many compositions which are still popular today. In the early 1960s a band embarked on a series of peals which would culminate in the first peal of 23 Spliced Surprise Major (all the work). This peal has now become almost a standard composition and has been rung many times, including of course, by a Devon Guild band. Hope you pronounced Whalley correctly, Mike!
Thank you, Don for reminding me of some very happy times and some real characters of ringing.
The Huntsham Estate was bought in July 1760 by William Troyte. He was the second surviving son of the Revd Thomas Troyte, the domestic chaplain at Killerton, who had married Lady Acland, the widow of the sixth baronet in 1730. William Troyte married Arundel Berkeley and although there were seven children of the marriage, the Troytes died out in that generation. Arundel Troyte was buried at Huntsham in 1773 and William in 1807.
Thomas Berkeley Troyte inherited the estate on his father's death, but died five years later. Thomas was succeeded by his younger brother, Edward Berkeley Troyte, who had been baptised at Huntsham in 1763. After Oriel College, Oxford, he was ordained in 1787 and instituted to Pilkington, Somerset in 1787, which living he held until his death, and to Huntsham, on presentation of his father on 2 March 1796. He died unmarried in 1852 at the age of 88. There is a brass plaque to his memory in the floor of the chancel in Huntsham church.
For forty years, the Revd Dr Edward Troyte enjoyed a sporting life of fox hunting and cock fighting at the expense of land management which meant that the Huntsham estate was in an extreme state of neglect and decay with a scarcely inhabitable Tudor mansion and a severely delapidated church just a few yards away - all of which was left to Arthur Henry Dyke Acland, the second son of Sir Thomas Acland of Killerton, but the money necessary to make any improvements was willed elsewhere. Conditions of his inheritance required Arthur Acland to take the name of Troyte and to reside there for six months of every year.
In 1852, when Arthur, aged 42, arrived with his wife Frances and their family to take possession of Huntsham, there were no roads, only overgrown tracks, and the estate contained about 12,000 acres spread over at least ten parishes. The land was boggy, wet and unproductive, and his children thought they had come to the end of the world!
Except for about £2,000 left specifically to build a new Rectory, Dr Troyte left his money to other relatives together with the first year's rent from the Huntsham tenants. Thus there was no course open to Arthur but to borrow money to improve the estate. The loan he obtained from the South West Land and Drainage Company remained a millstone around the necks of the Acland Troytes until it was finally paid off in 1930.
In 1854 preparations were made to rebuild All Saints Church, Huntsham, a project close to Arthur's heart. The rebuilding of the east end of the chancel was completed first. The tower was partly rebuilt and the chancel and nave provided with new open cradle roofs of local oak. All the windows are filled with stained glass, given by Arthur's brother-in-law. The west window has illustrations of campanulas (bellflowers), designed to represent the three bells then in the Huntsham tower. One of these three bells was an Exeter bell cast in about 1400 and one was dated 1663 and cast by John Pennington of Exeter. These bells summoned the parishioners to worship in their restored church on Sunday 2 November 1856.
Frances Troyte died in August 1856 and Arthur died on 18 June 1857, at the age of 46, leaving nine children, Two iron crosses with the letters F and A mark their resting places in Huntsham churchyard.
Charles Arthur Williams Troyte, Arthur and Fanny's eldest son, born on 11 May 1842, was fifteen when he inherited the estate and continued making improvements under the watchful eye of his father's elder brother Thomas, who became the second Sit Thomas Acland, and inherited Killerton. He went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1861, and in 1864, at the age of 22, married eighteen-year old Katherine Waldron of Bradgfield near Cullompton. Her family did not think that the derelict old Tudor house was fit for their daughter, and during 1868 - 70 the new Huntsham Court, with twenty bedrooms, was built. The old house was demolished and some elements, including the carved oak mantelpiece and panelling were incorporated into the new building.
In 1866 Troyte arranged for John Taylor of Loughborough to recast the smallest of the existing three bells and add three new bells to make ring of six. He later wrote the following: "Having augmented the peal of bells in the tower of his Parish Church to six, and having been all his life, more or less, a puller and hauler of bells, without having so much as heard of the existence of such an art as Change Ringing, he was introduced to it by Mr J. Taylor, bell founder, of Loughborough, Leicestershire, who did the work in the tower for him, and to him owes his first instructions. Being at once struck with the beauties and intricacies of the matter he persuaded five of the parish ringers to join him in attempting to learnt the art, and, through their indomitable pluck and perseverance, he was enabled in six months, without any help, except occasional letters from Mr Taylor to teach himself and five others to ring one peal of Grandsire Doubles. "He then by the kind assistance of other, and more experienced men, managed to make his men perfect masters of Grandsire, and before thirteen months had expired, they could ring some Stedman and Grandsire Minor..."
In 1867 Charles Troyte formed the Huntsham Society of Change Ringers and started to explore change ringing. A plaque in the original ringing room, which was located one floor higher in the tower than the present ringing gallery, records that in 1870 the Huntsham Society of Change Ringers rang an extent of Grandsire Doubles. Another plaque records that on 15 September 1870 the first true and complete 720 of Grandsire Minor was rung on these bells by this society, and was conducted by John Edward Troyte, younger brother of Charles. The same plaque also records that on 16 December 1871 the first true and complete 720 of Kent Treble Bob Minor was rung on these bells and was conducted by Charles Troyte.
In 1874, Charles Troyte's enthusiasm led him to have the ring augmented to eight.. As the tenor of the Huntsham six was only about ten hundredweight, Troyte chose to add a new tenor bell and a new treble to create a ring with a 12 1/2 cwt tenor. Unfortunately this also involved recasting the early fifteenth century fourth bell. It also necessitated some fairly drastic cutting away of parts of the 1866 oak frame to accommodate the larger bells and building a hoisted frame above the third and tenor bells to house the new treble and the second bell. The space in the bell chamber was so restricted that the treble rope had to be taken down inside the thickness of the tower wall. This arrangement, when seen for the first time by Alan Hughes of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, was called "a triumph of enthusiasm over common sense" and Andrew Nicholson in his report on the bells says, "It would be difficult to imagine a worse design and layout for a bell frame, almost everything being wrong. The roping down through the tower, in particular that to the treble, is the worst we have yet seen and simply does not work. The fact that all eight bells swing the same way and the weakest way of the tower merely compounds the matter."
Also in 1874, on 21 March in Exeter, was formed the Guild of Devonshire Ringers with Charles Troyte as President, a post he held until his death in 1896. The first peal by the Guild - of Grandsire Triples, conducted by J.E. Troyte - was rung at Huntsham on 2 February 1875. In 1884 Troyte urged Devon change ringers to look beyond Grandsire as a method as well as to concentrate on good striking; however only Troyte's Huntsham band is recorded as capable of ringing Treble Bob, and a peal of 5120 Kent Treble Bob Major was rung at Huntsham on 29 March 1875, called by William Bannister of Devonport.
Charles Troyte wrote "Change Ringing", the first edition of which was published in 1869. The book concentrated on the elementary aspects of ringing from handling a bell to ringing Kent Major. The book ran to four editions and continued to be advertised for sale until 1938. It was this book which inspired Dorothy L. Sayers to write 'The Nine Tailors'.
In 1890, with H Willett, Troyte went to London to assist in forming the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, and the following year was elected a member, but due to failing health did not attend any meetings of the Council. He was not a prolific peal ringer; he rang in twenty peals altogether, of which ten were for the Guild of Devonshire Ringers, seven were at Huntsham, and he conducted four.
In 1896 Charles died aged 54, having owned the estate for thirty-nine years, and The first peal of Plain Bob Major by the Guild was rung in his memory. He was succeeded by his eldest son Hugh, whose wife had no time for the church and was never known to have attended a service there. If the bells were rung, Mrs Troyte complained that they made her head ache. Hugh was killed in action in France during the Great War, and his brother Gilbert owned the estate until his death, childless, in 1964.
Membership of the Society will entitle members to the following benefits: Admission to the rededication service following completion of the restoration work. An invitation to the annual Huntsham Ringing Festival, the first of which will take within one month of the remodelled ring being rededicated. Peals quarter peals and general ringing for a reduced rope fee.
A register of members will be available in Huntsham church and applications for membership together with a cheque for £15 made payable to Huntsham Tower and Bell Fund and accompanied by a Gift Aid Declaration as appropriate, or an address for correspondence, are to be made to Michael Hatchett.
Once again there were many first quarters and personal milestones in the Guild quarter peal week held from Friday 28 September to Sunday 7 October. Gwyrie Mossop, Gill Furse, Susan Lavery, Robin Lavery, James Quick, Maureen Smallwood, Bill Parr and Les Burridge rang their first quarter, Catherine Stanway her first as Conductor, Catherine Thorpe her first of minor, Richard Coley rang his first of Surprise, David Smith, Jenny Crouch, Paul Latham and Simeon Bayton their first inside.
The NE Branch set out to ring a quarter in every affiliated tower, and succeeded in ringing eleven quarters. Bands all the geographical branches took part and thirty quarters were rung. As a result of the week, some £200 was raised for the Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund, thanks to Janet Coles' organisational skills and all who took part.
The ancient bells of Fremington Church are finally in the hands of specialists at Nottingham for repair. And everyone involved in the tricky task of removing them from the tower at St Peter's must be breathing a huge sigh of relief.
To start with they had to knock through a 'bricked up' doorway to get them out because two of the six were too large to go through the main body of the church. The Victorian blocked up the doorway, and from then onwards the bell-ringers had to go through the church to get to the tower. Now the old access has been restored, a temporary door has been put in place for the ringers to use when the six bells are finally back again.
One of the former bell-ringers, 85 year-old Jack Pearce, made a nostalgic return to the tower to watch the bells being taken down. It is hoped they will be restored and back in the church by February. The cost of restoring the bells is £29,000 of which £23,000 has already been raised.
Ruth Bint of Chagford recently abseiled down the side of Exeter College and raised a large sum of money for charity.
Derek Hawkins is thankfully back in action after a serious illness which meant that he and Mo had to cancel their trip to Australia. After taking aspirin, he found it almost impossible to breathe, and the ambulance was called.
Robert Brown has been praised for distinguished service in the police force, as he received his long service award at Middlemoor. Robert joined the Devon and Cornwall police in November 1978, and is currently head of the force's scientific support unit, having been awarded a Commendation with Star for his leadership and courage when he disarmed a man threatening to kill him with a carving knife.
NNW branch ringing master John Ross has contributed a chapter to a history of Appledore band - his other hobby!
Best wishes to Catherine Gibson (nee Davis) of Chawleigh who is going into Sheffield hospital for treatment in January, and hopes to get back into ringing soon afterwards. She tells how she could remember visiting the Cathedral as a little girl with her famous father and being frightened by the access route!
Congratulations to Ian Avery of Kingsteignton, and Sue Morris who are getting married on the Saturday before Christmas.
The Exeter Branch Fireworks party is always an occasion for boys to be boys. This year Matthew Hilling tried to set himself on fire and left with a rather burnt pair of trousers.
A peal of Yorkshire Royal at Thorverton on 15 September was rung to celebrate fifty years membership of the Ancient Society of College Youths for Norman Mallett, John Hill and Terry Hampton.
Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the Nineteenth Century French Countryside. By Alain Corbin
Papermac £12 (ISBN: 0 333 75280 5)
The difference between English change ringing and the apparently haphazard ringing of bells which is customary in most other European countries is only too obvious. However Professor Corbin, in his painstaking study of the "auditory landscape" of France in the nineteenth century, raises historical issues which apply equally here, and indicates the heritage France and England share.
Before the modern era, bells acted not merely as the markers of time but also as the identifying feature of each French community. They were designed to be heard in every corner of their parish, and their resonance was a matter of local pride, their casting a memorable event. Corbin relates a large number of incidents where public opinion reacted against the transfer of a bell to another church, or the restriction of ringing imposed wither by ecclesiastical or civic authorities, beginning with the suppression of bell-ringing following the French revolution, when bells were confiscated by the secular authorities.
Bells were rung to mark the celebration of the Mass and other offices of the Church, to announce the beginning and end of the working day, meetings of the town council, visits of dignitaries, deaths, elections, even the coming of the road-sweeper. They were used to warn of fire or danger, and to call people to prayer in their homes or place of work. Different ways of sounding the bells had different meanings which would have been familiar to the people in each parish (although these patterns of ringing varied considerably between localities, which caused much confusion as people became more mobile).
And with beginnings of modernity, parish priests started to restrict the use of the bells in their church to uses which they felt were appropriate for instruments which had been consecrated to God, at the same time as mechanical clocks and the railways introduced amore regularised concept of time. Meanwhile French antiquarians began to record descriptions of the bells in the locality.
Parallels between Corbin's description and ringing in Victorian England are clear. That English localities were defined popularly by the audibility of their bells is evident from the tradition that cockneys are born within the sound of Bow bells. And as Peter Ackroyd has recently pointed out in the 'biography' of London, "before the sound of motorcars entered the already crowded streets, the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside 'would be audible all over London'".
We know that until the Belfry Reform movement desecularised bell-ringing in England, just as a similar spirit had had the same effect in France, the bells had announced times and events to the parish. Indeed the English tradition of announcing the death of a man by nine 'tailors', a woman by six and a child by three was replicated in some parts of France.
It is remarkable that a work in an obscure corner of French history should be available in English in paperback. It is unfortunate that the translation is often awkward and that the translator has chosen to use terms such as 'peal', which have a technical meaning to the change ringer. For example he usually employs the expressions 'ringing in peal' or 'ringing a peal' to mean swinging one or more bells so that they double-clapper. Given that the text reads like a translation, the use of the occasional French technical term would not have been out of place.
Nevertheless change-ringers with an interest in history - especially those with an awareness of our European identity - will be fascinated by Corbin's description of an "auditory landscape" that has vanished not just in France but in England too.
Doddiscombsleigh is one of the most hidden-away villages in the county, tucked up in the wooded slops of the Haldon hills west of Exeter, but in addition to its unusual name is rightly famous for the church of St Michael and All Angels which has some of the finest mediaeval stained glass in the west of England, and the well-patronised Nobody Inn. Every since the middle ages it had a ring of three bells, until this year when as a Millennium project this blossomed into a ring of six, thanks largely to a generous legacy from Kitty Gifford Scott.
The three old bells were all by the Exeter Penningtons. In 1961 the treble and second were recast by Taylors; after having become cracked and the three were rehung for ringing in a new cast iron frame, on a steel grillage designed to take a six bell frame. The recast bells had the old inscriptions reproduced in facsimile, and the old tenor was hung in a headstock which retained its enormous set of cannons.
To augment, two trebles and a 10cwt tenor were added and the former treble recast. An upstairs ringing room was created with a glazed screen. The bells were dedicated by the Bishop of Exeter at the church's Patronal Festival, Sunday 30 September. Unfortunately the inscription on the tenor was found to name the Revd Victor Standing as Team Vicar instead of Team rector; however this was easily if a little unconventionally) remedied, by grinding off the offending letters and sticking the right ones on with epoxy resin. JGMS
Devon's third new six this year are waiting to be hung, but the tower has yet to be built! James and Elaine Grant are waiting for the extension to their house to be completed so that their 10lb mini-ring can be installed by bell hanger Matthew Higby. Ian Avery has offered a temporary home where they could be rung in his garage in Kingsteignton.
"Evolution, not revolution" might best describe the changes North East Branch have made to their programme in the last few years. Following the introduction of weekday afternoon practices two years ago, 2001 saw a change in the format of Saturday events. A social activity now regularly replaces evening ringing after the traditional afternoon of ringing, service and tea. So far we have staged two skittles evenings, a pub quiz and, most recently, a trip to Exeter.
The Exeter trip was perhaps the most ambitious of these. Following a full afternoon of ringing, a service, group photograph, tea, Branch AGM and a members' open forum it was beginning to look a week beforehand as though people might be finding the evening trip too much. But in the event, 20 people - a mixture of members and friends - gathered at the west front of the Cathedral on a blustery October Saturday evening for a guided walk - the theme appropriately for a dark and stormy night: "Ghosts and Legends of Exeter".
Our excellent City Red Coat guide led us up and down the Close, the High Street and the Southernhay areas and narrated many tales of unusual and supernatural happenings relating to the old buildings of the city centre. Some of the younger, more boisterous "apparitions" out on the town that night were certainly real enough and made themselves heard, but were generally good-natured enough if curious as to what we were doing.
Away from the noise of the High Street our explorations took in the basement of the Well House pub (to meet the resident skeleton) and secluded courtyards that we would otherwise have missed. The sight of the whole group embracing one of the city's oldest trees in the centre of Southernhay caused some amusement for passers-by. Finally a group of windswept, but only slightly damp pilgrims gathered by the ancient Touchstone in the Close to receive their Ghost Walk survival certificates and to make their goodnights. The general consensus was: a fascinating and enjoyable evening to round off a busy day. Leslie Boyce
As agreed at the last Guild AGM, an open day along the lines of the one held in 2000 is to be held on Bank Holiday Monday, 26th August. The proposed route follows an anti-clockwise circuit around the perimeter of Dartmoor, starting at Ide and finishing in the Ashburton area. Please put the date in your diary. Wendy Campbell will be looking for volunteers to marshal the towers which will be open, so if anyone would like a pleasant day out helping to raise what is hoped will be a significant sum of money for the DCBRF, please get in touch with her.
Possibly the Open Day will be part of a weekend of ringing activities for ringers of all traditions from both within the county and outside. The St Petrock's ringers are hoping to organise another national six bell competition (with more effective publicity than this year's attempt!) on the Saturday before the Bank Holiday.
The annual Devon Ringers' Carol Service this year will take place in the parish church of St Eustachius, Tavistock, at 3pm on Saturday 15 December. As in previous years, the collection will be donated to the work of the Childrens' Hospice South West, located at Fremington in North Devon. This year we look forward to welcoming to the service Mr Bill Griffin, a hospice representative, who will speak of its valuable work in ministering to children and their families.
Tavistock bells will be available from 1.30 to 3pm, and again after the service, and in addition the sixes of Whitchurch and Lamerton will be available from 12.30 to 1.30pm. Both Guild and Association look forward once again to welcoming many ringers and friends.
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