Blackmoor Tower Outing – Saturday 26 October 2019 (A Rookie’s View)

Steve Jolliffe organised a terrific day for our annual outing, focusing on the area around King’s Somborne and Stockbridge, arranging for us to ring at six locations.  The day dawned dark and dreary, with the forecast rain arriving mid morning and staying with us for most of the day.   We were accompanied by Valerie’s lovely Staffie, Harvey, who kept spare ringers entertained and encouraged the giving of extra walks.

An hour’s drive saw us arriving at the first location,  the Grade II listed  church of St Peter & St Paul at King’s Somborne SO20 6NU in the Test Valley between Romsey and Andover.  Dating from the 13th Century, this lovely church houses bells which were generally heavier than my “home” bells – see the table below.  When doing my preparation/homework, I realised just what a privilege it would be to ring a variety of new and old bells from a range of foundries.

Bell Weight Note Diameter Dated Foundry
1 4-3-24 D 28.75″ 1927 Gillett & Johnston
2 5-2-22 C 32.00″ 1887 Gillett & Co
3 6-0-4 Bb 33.75″ 1887 Gillett & Co
4 7-0-26 A 35.25″ 1818 James Wells
5 7-2-27 G 37.50″ c1499† Salisbury foundry
6 10-1-9 F 41.14″ 1911 John Warner & Sons

The ringing chamber was on the ground floor and the ropes went a long, long way up.  Thank heavens for the guide rails!  The bells were rung up and we quickly settled into little bands for rounds, call changes and then more exciting methods for the experienced ringers who had joined us.   The heating had been put on and was greatly appreciated.  Throughout the day, I found that some bells were easier than others to ring (for me, here, #3 was better than #2).  If you have time, do read the Sopwith (Camel) panel at the rear of the church.  After 45 minutes, the bells were lowered and we dashed off to….

St Peter’s Church, Stockbridge SO20 6HE where the bells had recently been rehung and were greatly enjoyed by most of us – an absolute pleasure to ring.  David said they were very different when he previously rang there!  The ringing chamber was accessed by a narrow set of spiral stone stairs to the left of the main entrance.  Once inside, it was quite snug, with a few places for watching.  The ceiling was fairly low and the sallies were nice and woolly!  There has been a church on the site since the 12th Century.  By 1866 the medieval church was in such poor condition that most of it was pulled down, leaving only the Chancel (now Old St Peter’s Church) and this new Victorian Gothic style church was built on Stockbridge High Street.  The tower and spire were not added until 1887.  Four of the bells came from the old church and two of them date from the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

Bell Weight Note Diameter Dated Foundry
1 3-0-0 G 22.67″ 1887 Mears & Stainbank
2 3-1-0 F 24.40″ 1887 Mears & Stainbank
3 3-2-25 Eb 26.18″ 1691 Samuel Knight
4 4-0-21 D 27.20″ 1887 Mears & Stainbank
5 5-0-23 C 29.75″ 1691 Samuel Knight
6 7-0-20 Bb 33.11″ 1691 Samuel Knight

The overflow ringers stayed dry in the church and we were discussing the unusual 13th Century font, made of Purbeck marble and banded in iron.  The font is so worn that a design of blind arcading on the bowl can hardly be seen.

Next time I visit, I’ll definitely make time to see the Old Church as many items were transferred there – services are still occasionally held there, including a pair of Elizabethan wall paintings celebrating the defeat of the Armada.  Also stories about the civil war, with Empress Mathilda and King Stephen clashing at Stockbridge.

Our next port of call was St Mary’s Church at Broughton SO20 8AA with a ground floor ringing chamber.  As we arrived, we passed a group of volunteers who’d spent the morning giving the Church a good and thorough clean – they’d made an excellent job of it.  The ground floor ringing chamber was located at the rear of the church, accessed either from inside (a smart new partitioned area with kitchen, toilet and seating) or via the old oak external door.  These were much heavier than the Stockbridge bells and we were careful to be matched to bells which we could handle.  This was an 11th Century church with a beautifully carved 15th Century west doorway, with a 15th Century panel of a triptych in the Lady Chapel and a pillar piscina carved with the figure of a devil.  Harvey and his buddies discovered a 17th Century Dovecote in the churchyard but it was raining too hard for me to venture out (what a wimp).

Bell Weight Note Diameter Dated Foundry
1 4-1-13 E 26.88″ 1934 John Taylor & Co
2 5¾cwt D 31.00″ 1774 Robert I Wells
3 4½cwt C 29.25″ 1681 Clement I Tosier
4 6½cwt B 33.00″ c1720 William Tosier
5 7¾cwt A 35.75″ 1617 (unidentified)
6 11cwt G 40.25″ 1763 Lester & Pack

We were all beginning to feel cold and hungry so, when our time finished at 12.15 pm, the bells were rung down and we all headed to our lunchtime stop via various routes.  By now, it was raining hard and puddles were stretched across the roads and the fords were rushing streams of indeterminate depth.

We were allocated a room of our own at The Black Horse in West Tytherley SP5 1NF, in the warmth where the food was welcomed and quickly devoured.  I’m not quite sure what an older couple thought when they inadvertently joined our group by taking up a spare table at the edge of the rowdy ringers – I wonder if they were listening to tall stories.  As if.. !

At 14.15 we headed to St Peter’s at East Tytherley SP5 1LG, used by some participants at the Listening Skills course earlier in the month.  The ringing chamber was on the ground floor, in a room off the entrance porch.  With 8 bells, there wasn’t much space for observers so the overflow stood in the porch or sat in the church and admired the vaulting.  Maybe I was getting tired, but I found the #2 to be very hard work (David said I was making it so) but the #4 seemed smoother.

Bell Weight Note Dated Foundry Bell
1 4-1-4 F# 25.50″ 1899 John Taylor & Co
2 4-1-15 E# 26.50″ 1899 John Taylor & Co
3 4-3-0 D# 28.00″ 1897 John Taylor & Co
4 5-1-21 C# 30.13″ 1897 John Taylor & Co
5 6-2-2 B 32.63″ 1897 John Taylor & Co
6 7-2-10 A# 34.50″ 1897 John Taylor & Co
7 9-3-23 G# 38.25″ 1897 John Taylor & Co
8 14-1-5 F# 43.00″ 1897 John Taylor & Co

Known as “The Church in the Field”, St Peter’s  dates to the 13th Century with a comprehensive rebuilding in the Victorian period, retaining three panes of 13th Century stained glass and a magnificent wall painting of St Peter.  The memorial is to Richard Giffard who died in 1568.

The time was going past incredibly quickly now.  We drove 2 miles down the road to St John’s Church at Lockerley SO51 0JJ and the small ringing chamber accessed via narrow stone spiral stairs around the left corner from the entrance porch.  I liked these bells, as I’d spent time on them on the Listening Course day and felt confident.  Until, that is, my left hand cramped up, and Alison kindly rescued me whilst I tried to regain a normal hand shape.   Totally embarrassing.  Fortunately I could carry on after a few minutes and managed to keep the cramp under control – easier once I knew what to expect.  Everyone seemed happy on the bells, with various bands being put together to make the most of the time.

Bell Weight Note Diameter Dated Foundry
1 3-3-3 E 26.13″ 1890 John Taylor & Co
2 4-2-16 D 28.13″ 1890 John Taylor & Co
3 5-0-11 C 30.50″ 1890 John Taylor & Co
4 6-1-19 B 32.50″ 1890 John Taylor & Co
5 8-3-4 A 36.00″ 1890 John Taylor & Co
6 12-1-15 G 40.50″ 1890 John Taylor & Co

At the time of the Domesday survey, Lockerley was a chapelry annexed to the church of Mottisfont, with the original simple chapel built C 1200.  The present church was consecrated on 16 October 1890 and was built alongside the old Saxon church which was demolished – a “small mean building with tile roof and wooden belfry containing two bells”.  In spring, rows of daffodils mark the outline of the walls of the old church.  The parish registers of births, marriages and deaths date in unbroken sequence from Queen Elizabeth’s reign in 1583. There were separate seats for strangers and also “Wummen’s Setes”!  The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 10th August 1889 by Frederick Gonnerman Dalgety of Lockerley Hall and he built the church at his sole expense. It is said that during the blackout of World War II, when services had to be held in the afternoon, the winter sun was reflected in the gilding of the paintings and lit the church.

Three miles away were the Clock House Bells at Awbridge SO51 0HN.  What a surprise and a fabulous way to end the Outing!  Housed in a specially built annexe, this mini-ring of 10 bells had been lovingly installed by John.  The Clock House bells have stays but use bungee cord instead of sliders so, the harder you pulled, the more the bell would bounce back.  I’d attempted the tenor of the Charmborough Ring and made a right mess of it, so was rather dreading this final port of call.  I needn’t have worried – they were lovely sweet bells and once we’d all found the balance, various bands ventured into call changes, plain hunt and other methods.  The owner seemed rather impressed and said that our group had done better than most others.  WHAT a result.  Valerie took a video which you can view here: https://youtu.be/x-PAmecJTaU

Bell Weight Note Diameter Dated Foundry
1 0-3-16 G# 14.13″ 2000 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
2 0-3-25 F# 15.00″ 2000 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
3 0-3-24 E 15.63″ 2000 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
4 1-0-5 D# 15.88″ 2000 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
5 1-0-22 C# 17.00″ 2000 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
6 1-1-2 B 17.88″ 2000 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
7 1-1-21 A 18.88″ 2001 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
8 1-2-4 G# 19.50″ 2001 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
9 1-3-22 F# 21.38″ 2001 John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd
10 3-1-2 E 25.13″ 2012 John Taylor & Co

John had a beautiful book detailing the history of his Mini Ring project and I read that he’d rung on a mini ring at Liss.  Sure enough, David Cooper had taught some of John’s friends to ring in the distant pass and modestly said that his input was modest and they very soon overtook David’s own ringing abilities.  What a nice connection!

 Extract from the website: Clock House Bells are a privately owned ring of 10 bells, hung in a purpose built garage extension. The bells were cast by Taylors of Loughborough back in 2000, weighing in at 2-2-0 cwt. On Friday 15th August 2009, the first changes (1260 Plain Bob Doubles) were rung on the bells without stay/slider mechanisms in place.

Since then the ringing room has been heavily decorated, toilet and kitchen facilities put in place, a new tenor (3-1-2 cwt) installed and hundreds of quarters, peals and long lengths rung.

The bells are available to be booked anytime of the year, whether it’s for a 30 minute stop on a ringing outing or a record length peal.

Throughout the day, everyone who wanted to take part was included.  As a newbie, I really appreciated being included and knowing that support was on hand, should it be needed.

We are also indebted to the contacts who kindly opened up the churches and turned on the heating for us, and then locked up again.  Our sincere thanks go to all.

And finally, thanks to Steve and Gill Jolliffe who organised the day so beautifully and maximised the number of places we could ring at, most within 5-10 minutes’ drive from each other.

Thank you all, it’s a day that I will treasure.   And now to prepare for the Plain Hunt training day … eek!

Debbie Matthias

5 November 2019

In my first year of ringing, I have rung 41 bells over 15 locations,

Heaviest bell: 12 cwt (Lockerley Tenor).

Cumulative weight, taking whole cwt figure only: 192 cwt

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