Interchange - the Devon bellringers newsletter

Interchange is published as part of both Guild and Association newsletters. Any opinions expressed in Interchange do not necessarily represent those of the Guild or the Association, or the Devon Ringer's Council. Please end items for the December issue to Mike Webster,

Ringers Council explores plans for future projects

At its May meeting, members of the Devon Ringers' Council explored some possible plans for future co-operation between Association and Guild.

Suggestions included:

No decisions have been made, and so, if any Devon ringers have further suggestions on work which should be done by ringers of both traditions working together, please contact the Clerk to the Council, Ian Avery.

National Call Change Competition

Following the success of last year's competition at Drewsteignton, which drew teams from as far away as Birmingham and Somerset, the national call change competition this year, organised by the St Petrock's Ringing Centre and the Devon Ringers' Council will take place on Saturday 23 August at Plymtree. For full details contact David Trist.

It had been suggested that it might be possible to organise a competition at Lincoln in connection with the Ringers Roadshow. Unfortunately, due to insufficient personnel, this now looks unlikely, although a number of teams from Devon are making the journey.

Dartmoor Bells Project

Aune Head Arts (AHA) are organising an arts project centred on bell ringing and Dartmoor, which has just received Heritage Lottery funding. The initial aim is to make a sound recording of all the bells within the National Park, and to issue this as a double CD with an accompanying book giving full details of founders and inscriptions. The project is now widening to include video footage of ringing (yes, Buckfast Abbey is within the area) and of some background to bells, such as founding and bell-hanging.

The Trust are also interested in organising some public-access events on the moor connected with bell ringing. This could include the opportunities for non-ringers to handle a bell (and possible volunteer to learn), or some guided walks on the moor where bells would be ringing.

Two New Trustees, Two New Grant Awards

Bell Restoration Fund Update

New Diocesan Bell Adviser James Clarke has now taken over from John Scott as Chairman of the Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund. James is also ex officio a new trustee of the Fund. John remains a trustee, as one of the three Guild representatives.

At the DCBRF Committee Meeting held on 21 March 2003, Graham Sharland of Dunsford was officially appointed as a trustee representing the Devon Association, following the resignation in November 2002 of David Trout.

At the meeting, new grant awards were made to Huntsham (3000) and Teignmouth St Michael (3000). These awards are together almost as much as the Fund's average annual income so it is unfortunately impossible to offer either of these large restorations the 10% of restoration costs that the Fund generally aims to contribute.
Mary Mears

Please send donations to:
Mrs Mary Mears, Secretary/Treasurer DCBRF,

The Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund - Today's Giving, Tomorrow's Ringing

The Making of a CD

A number of people had suggested that it was desirable to produce a compact disc which would act as an historical record of ringing in Devon. After much discussion, Jonathan Bint and I agreed to meet in a pub in Moretonhampstead and drew up a shortlist of towers which might be included. The call-change towers were some of the top teams in the county, to ensure there was some of the best of traditional Devon style ringing.. The Guild towers were chosen as representing some of the centres of method ringing Devon. We even discussed how this CD might be the first of a series, which could also include some of the more 'interesting' peals of bells in the county, and some 'yap' and some ringing songs ('One day in October...'?).

Letters were written to the incumbents, all of whom responded favourably, and some even discussed it with their PCCs! Robert Brown of Bovey Tracey agreed to make arrangements with the tower captains and fix dates when he might come and make the recordings. Then he fell ill.

When it was realised that Robert was not going to be well enough in time to make the recordings, someone else needed to be found. Fortunately, we knew that Andy Stevens, from Exeter St Thomas and Kenn, was planning to make some recordings of bells on Dartmoor as part of an arts project, and was experienced at sound recordings. Fortunately he was willing to help with some of the towers, and, eventually found himself recording them all!

The Cathedral was the first tower to be recorded, and a couple of recording positions were tried-in the bishop's garden, and on the roof at the west end. Many of the ringers were absent, and it was decided to try again next month. However, the Cathedral practice fell on a rainy day, and the raindrops were quire audible on the recording. Editing will help. Method rung: Stedman Cinques.

Tavistock were recorded at a Branch practice, which meant there wasn't much scope for retakes, without everyone getting bored. However it meant that some of the best ringers in the branch were present, and helped record some Grandsire Caters.

It proved difficult to find the perfect location for the microphones in order to record Stoke Damerel bells. The practice night had been specially arranged for the recording, and so Plain Bob Major was rung repeatedly! Will Yvonne get a CD player for Christmas in order to hear the recording?

Andy was sent on to the roof at St Marychurch, through a very small hole. The planned touch of Erin Caters proved a little too demanding, and so a simpler one was recorded. Tim, Claire and I were all called on to make up numbers. There was plenty of birdsong for the recording of Cambridge Minor, taken at the monthly Surprise practice at Buckerell.

On Saturday 3 May, we had a day out calling at three towers. The first was Clyst St George, where George Retter called us some nice Grandsire Doubles. How good it was to include the bells of HT Ellacombe's tower. Then to Tiverton, another classic ring of bells, arguably the best on the CD, with some Grandsire Triples recorded after a wedding, also in the rain. Finally after a shop in the pub, to Mortehoe, where high winds outside necessitated recording the peal inside the ringing chamber, with Margaret White's voice clearly calling the changes.

We had some cracking ringing at Buckland in the Moor, on a cold windy evening; I particularly enjoyed the shortened Whittington's (or Westminster) peal, which I hope gets on to the CD. Kingsteignton are another contender for the best bells on the CD, from the best eight bell team in Devon. The first peal recorded was a little too long, and the space on the minidisk ran out before the end of the lower on the second piece recorded.

I didn't get to Dunsford, but the recordings taken sound nice, with creditable raises and lowers. Combe Martin was the last method tower, and the St Brannock's Society gave us a course of Yorkshire Major, despite John Ross's car getting a puncture on the way to the tower!

At the time of writing, that only leaves three more towers to go. We're just about on schedule for publication date on 26 July!

The tower at Kingsteinton

The Recasting of Tiverton bells

In the recent issue of Ringing Round Devon it was mentioned that the Guild 8-bell striking competition will be held at Tiverton on the 18th October. This has prompted a former member of the St Peter's Society of Change Ringers to remind us that it was eighty years ago in 1923 that this fine peal of bells was recast by Taylors. The writer also recalls that while on a visit to Loughborough I 1993 he was allowed a privileged peep at some of the correspondence in the St Peter's file which was both interesting and amusing. The notes afterwards made from memory provide the basis for most of the following information:-

The file gave no indication on exactly why the bells needed recasting but Taylors' quotation for the work was accepted in 1923 and their bell-hangers were sent down to Tiverton to dismantle the existing ring of eight. This was achieved by removing the bell chamber window on the south side of the tower. Richard Grater, a local ringer and partner in a firm of contractors, was involved in the necessary building work and Fred Newcombe, another local ringer who was an engineer, also assisted.

Early on in the project one of Taylors' men sustained an injury and was taken to the local hospital. The Rector (The Revd A.E. Chapman) wrote to the foundry saying "... thank God it was not serious, he will be well looked after". Another of the bell hangers became unwell and was confined to bed for a short time. He wrote complaining that the cost of lodgings in Tiverton was high. The piece de resistance was the letter to Loughborough saying, "They are a funny lot here [in Tiverton] and are insisting that the old bells be weighed locally before we send them off to you" (Would not any Devonian of that period dealing with up-country foreigners simply see this as good prudent business sense?).

Most of available correspondence in the file was from Tiverton to Loughborough and it was apparent that some of Taylors' letters to Tiverton had been removed. It was however quite evident that Taylors tried to get the parish to accept a peal of ten new bells - presumably based on their recent success in 1920 with the new peal of ten at Cullompton. The reply to this proposal was an emphatic letter from the rector saying "No-we do not want ten bells". Work was later held up for a while when there was a dispute between Taylors' men and Grater Brothers the builders. Taylors insisted that the beams supporting the timber frame were rotten at the ends and must be taken you. The architect, Captain Dixon, agreed with this and Taylors prepared a layout drawing for steel beams to support the new cast-iron low-side frame.

From that point onwards all seemed to have gone smoothly and the work was completed for the sum of £1350. The Rector wrote to Loughborough saying, "We are very pleased with the new bells... There were 90 ringers present at the rededication service". A further letter from the rector requested 200 postcard photographs of the new bells-Taylors obliged by sending him 150!

The finished work left the Seage silent practice apparatus unusable and redundant-although it was never completely removed. To this day the small bells on which it operated are still at ceiling level in the ringing room and the cast-iron rocker arms which connected with the old wooden headstocks still hang forlornly around the walls of the bell chamber.

Incidentally Taylors apparently cast the new bells for St Peter's as a complete ring of ten, as evidenced by the numbers 3 to 10 on the in situ headstocks. One wonders what happened to the two unwanted trebles!

There was one further correspondence in 1937 when the rector (still Mr Chapman) placed an order with Taylors requesting them to remove the manual for the Ellacombe chimes from the ringing room down to a locked cupboard in the vestry at the base of the tower. Apparently this followed an incident when the Rector was annoyed at hearing an unauthorised ringer chime a verse of 'Home, Sweet Home'.

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