Bell-ringing comes to Holy Trinity, Roehampton
- Published on Wednesday, 29 November 2023 10:00
- Last Updated on 28 November 2023
- 0 Comments
Remember, Remember, the 5th of November! So goes the saying, and it certainly will be remembered in the Annals of the Parish of Roehampton, as the church welcomed a large gathering – 82 signed the visitors’ book – to celebrate the launch of the newly hung set of 8 bells. Much has been written about this epic journey in Ringing World (RW 23.06.23) and the Surrey Association Newsletter (SA Issue 35, Summer 2023) by Joint Project Manager, Michael Uphill. Here we celebrate the culmination of everyone’s hard work with choice anecdotes, commemorative photos and (hopefully) exhaustive lists of supporters and contributors.
‘Roehampton is a wonderful place full of energetic and visionary people, and also with more than its share of sorrow and loneliness, for Roehampton is by a long chalk the most deprived parish in the borough. The community needs places of welcome and joy at its heart, and the Parish Church has a duty to be that. Although the gathered congregation has dwindled over recent decades, this is a place from which the Church of England will never withdraw – and the church building is a remarkable piece of physical plant which we want to make the best of, to build something up. It was dedicated in 1898 and I can’t help thinking they originally meant to have bells but perhaps blew the budget on stained glass! Getting bells in the tower now, after 125 years, is both a symbolic and a practical step to realising the potential of the Church’.
‘When I met Andrew Wilby, the Managing Director of Taylors Bell Foundry, in Loughborough, and discovered he was a former scholar of Roehampton Church School, I was beginning to suspect that this was one of those situations in which the Holy Spirit might be up to something. I have been moved and awed and delighted by the energy of the wider bell-ringing family. An unstoppable force was unleashed. I’m learning too. Now we can look forward to welcoming ringers from around the UK and the world and many centuries of ringing! I want to express the very warmest thanks to all who have made it happen. You’re all saints in my book.’ – The Rev’d Joshua Rey, vivacious Vicar of Roehampton
For how the donors came together see the RW and SA newsletters mentioned above. With gratitude for their immense generosity, we roll out the red carpet once again:
Treble: Ian Campbell and Michael Uphill
Second: Andrew Wilby
Third: Joseph Dillon
Fourth: Joseph Dillon
Fifth: Jan & Jane Ives and the Richardson family
Sixth: The Tracey Family
Seventh: Roehampton PCC
Tenor: David Kelly
There was also a very generous donation towards the general cost of the project from the Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers.
After ‘Donors’ Touch’ – 588 changes of Stedman Triples
Left to right: Ian Campbell (Joint Donor of the treble bell), Andrew Wilby (Managing Director of the Loughborough Bell Foundry. Donor of the 2nd bell), Jan Ives (daughter of Bill and Jean Richardson in whose memory the 5th bell was donated by the extended Richardson family), Jane Ives (Russell Ives’ wife), Phill Ridley (Instructor, standing in for Malcolm McAlister, unfortunately unwell on the day, Belfry Repair Fund Secretary of donors, The Surrey Association), Eddie and Harry Ives (great grandsons of Bill and Jean who both had a ring of their great grandparents’ bell after the Stedman) with their father, Russell Ives (grandson) behind them. Bob Cooles (many years Belfry Repair Fund secretary and President of the Surrey Association. Bob co-ordinated the volunteers who assisted with the hoisting to the tower and hanging of the bells, bellframe, fittings etc), Michael Uphill (Joint Donor of the treble bell), Nick Rata representing all those who assisted with the installation of the bells), David Kelley of the Keltek Trust which provided the four largest bells, David himself donating the tenor bell), and Joseph Dillon (Donor of the 3rd and 4th bells and many of the ancillary fittings)
‘The four heaviest of Roehampton’s bells we bought from Prinknash Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in Gloucester. We had to borrow the money. They are light bells, which are the most desirable. They are tuned in the ‘true harmonic’ manner, to include the same note across 3 octaves, thus creating a richer sound. Taylors was one of the rare companies to use the true harmonic method from the late 1890s, and carefully kept the trade-secret. This explains why some bell foundries survived and others went under’. – David Kelly, Keltek Trust, dating agency for pre-loved bells
‘Taylor’s is the last bell foundry standing. Gillett’s bell foundry tried tuning espionage but went down in 1953. Taylor’s acquired their equipment, so we now have 38 sets of tuning forks. But on closer inspection, theirs weren’t even tuned properly! Now we use software’. – Andrew Wilby of Taylor’s, The Loughborough Bell Foundry, in response to David Kelly’s insights into tuning
The Nine Taylors
Taylor’s Bell Foundry cast the four lightest bells, and the two sets were incorporated into the complex double-decker superstructure due to the narrowness of the Tower. As a tribute to their rare and precious skills, nine core roles are listed below:
- The Cope Maker
- The Core Maker
- The Foundry Worker
- The Tuner
- The Wheelmaker
- The Clapper Maker
- The Steel Worker
- 1 Bellhanger – Nathan Evans
- 2 Bellhanger – Andrew Mills
Three Cheers for our Volunteers
Nick, Lucy Chandhial, Alan Cooke, Joe Dillon, Andrew Fisher, Andrew Harvey, Charlotte Kirwan, Malcolm McAlister, Anthony Rands, Nick Rata, Millica Reardon, Colette Schrier, Dudley Tipler, Guy Wells, Chris Ridley and Ed Wratten
Photo caption: Edmund Wratten, preparing to hoist up a wheel, quietly enjoying his work with a ‘You don’t want a photo of me’.
‘It was a really fantastic launch day with a lovely Roehampton welcome. This is just the beginning’. ? – Volunteer
‘I was here for the ‘Mobile Ring’ in the Vicar’s driveway, to get everyone interested. A mobile ring is a temporary set of bells built in miniature so people can see the mechanism and have a go. It’s great to have new bells but there’s a generation of ringers missing, the 30-40 year olds, because IT has offered an alluring alternative. The good news is we have a new recruitment strategy. – Chris Ridley, Father of Phillip Ridley, Joint Project Manager, Instructor
The wider church community provided a lovely warm welcome and spread of delicious cakes and bubbly after the morning service. A full buffet lunch was then provided by the band, with help from Caroline Prescott and Chris Carroll and the Vicar contributing beer.
Instructors of the new local band
Phillip Ridley (West Hill & Roehampton), Michael Uphill (Putney, Roehampton), Trisha Hawkins (Barnes), Ian Campbell (St Paul’s Cathedral)
‘I ring at West Hill, and was recruited by Michael Uphill and Bob Cooles, to help with drumming up support and funds for the new bells. It was a challenge justifying a new set of bells, given the national shortage of ringers, but the enthusiasm of the Vicar and locals made it possible. The plan is to develop home-grown talent to take over the tower. We need a solid team before we can start widening the net’. – Phillip Ridley, Instructor, West Hill & Roehampton
‘It was great to see top ringers and local beginners all joining together’. – Michael Uphill, Joint Project Manager, Joint Donor, Instructor
‘It was a great pleasure to see our trainees ringing for the first time in an official capacity and I hope it makes good memories.’ – Ian Campbell, Joint Donor and Assistant Instructor
Photo caption: Roehampton Instructor, Phillip Ridley, welcomes learners on Sundays 4:30-6pm
The Roehampton Band
The new band started learning, and were ringing rounds on, the heavier set of 8 bells at West Hill, Wandsworth (tenor 15 cwt). The full new peal of bells were trialled in early October and practices were moved from West Hill to Roehampton from mid- October which was quite an adjustment (tenor 6 cwt). It’s been a baptism of fire, learning with newly installed bells, and the band worked hard, putting in extra practice at Barnes. The Kings Head in Roehampton is getting used to ringers descending for a drink on a Sunday afternoon after practice. They have now started Sunday service ringing.
Caption: Ian, Joshua, his son Paddy, Phillip, Fabienne, Denise, Kate, Remo, and Ruth, photo courtesy of Nick
‘I loved listening to the bells in my neighbourhood, so I started ringing in June. The best bit is having control of the ring. If you feel the pull, go for it.’ – Remo (17), Trainee Bellringer
‘I wasn’t intending to ring, I came along with Remo, my son, and I roped myself in. It’s so unique and exciting to be in the first ringing team on a new set of bells.’ – Ruth, Trainee Ringer
‘I’m an engineer, so I love the mechanics. In any practice session I’m up in the bell chamber 2-3 times keeping an eye. I also reinstated the old lock, put up coat hooks and made the spider. Recently I was swinging 12m up, screwing the spider pulley on too! I have a list of 71 things to do and ‘New window’ is No.49 I think.’ – Nick, Trainee Bellringer
‘”How do you fancy a bit of bell-ringing?” is what Joshua the lovely vicar at Holy Trinity Roehampton said to me earlier this year. I thought a new challenge would be good for me and without too much thought said ‘Yes why not!’ And that is how it started for me. I can read music and I am fairly fit, what more could be needed I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Learning bell ringing has been so much harder than I could have ever imagined but it has also been very rewarding and lots of fun so far. And I say so far deliberately because after 5 months of weekly sessions I still feel very much a beginner and at the start of the journey of mastering this amazing skill. The bells feel quite formidable they hang above us and it is nerve-racking to try to gain control over the momentum of their swing. It has felt a bit like trying to tame a wild animal, exciting but also terrifying at the same time.
‘I was asked by Kate if I would like to do bell ringing at Trinity Church with her, and without hesitation I said ‘Yes, fantastic!’ not knowing anything about it or what might be involved. My enthusiasm was really to have the opportunity to see more of my lovely friend, as we struggle to find the time for each other, so this would be an easy way to see her more regularly.
Throughout the summer we would meet on a Sunday at 4pm for an hour of practise. We were taken aback by the kindness of our instructors for all of their time and attention in helping us learn how to ring. We now find ourselves really looking forward to our weekly meetings and have also been welcomed into the bell ringing fold in Barnes for some extra lessons with the lovely Trisha on a Wednesday too.
I think the real pleasure for us is that it takes us away from our work routines and outside of ourselves. We enjoy the community aspect of bell ringing too, getting to know others, as well as mixing with new faces and of differing ages, whilst focusing on doing the same thing collectively.
It also works as a meditation, having to focus on getting it right. Acquiring a new skill is such a great opportunity which becomes rarer the older one gets, it is similar to the excitement one remembers of learning to ride a bike or drive a car.
We are now becoming aware of how big the world of bell ringing is, both in terms of community but also in the complexity of something quite simple on the face of it. We are really looking forward to the ongoing challenges, taking our bell ringing skills to the next level, and am sure that there will be lots of surprising experiences and great fun in store for us!’ – Fabienne, Trainee Ringer
Raffaello is the youngest Roehampton band learner, age 6, who has been taught recently by Trisha at Barnes. This was his first ringing on open bells with a band ringing rounds. He took bell #2 and although the ropes have been lowered, he still needed 3 boxes! His brother Massimo (8) and mum Nicole also rang.
Ringing all day long
All 80+ ringers had a chance to test their mettle. The day started with service ringing by members of the new local band assisted by those who have been teaching them. After the service there was the “donors’” touch of Stedman Triples (see photo above) followed by ringing by those who helped with the installation of the bells. General ringing was organised through the afternoon and finished with a Barnes band (The Barnes ringers have been so generous with additional help for the new recruits). To conclude, we were treated to first class performances by the “ringing royalty”, members of the Ancient Society of College Youths ringing 576 Yorkshire Surprise Major and the Westminster Abbey Company of ringers with 573 Grandsire Triples.
London ringers were out in force, including from Rev’d Rey’s old parish in Streatham which has a strong ringing community and was represented by Tony and Gill Nunn (Tony is tower captain at St Leonard’s and Gill is head server).
Beyond London, ringers and self-confessed Tower Grabbers came from as far afield as Exeter and Loughborough, Sussex and Shropshire. One notable Collector missing from the roster due to a prior engagement was Tim Jackson, Steward of Dove’s Directory, who only needed to tick Roehampton to complete his record of ringing in every – yes EVERY – ringable tower in the British Isles!
Entranced dog walkers
During the first service ringing, the sound doors on the louvres were opened so that the bells could be heard loud and clear outside. Local residents and families came to admire, commenting on how nice it was to hear them. In the afternoon the shutters were closed, and some visitors expressed regret that the bells sounded so faint. One gentleman quipped: ‘Can you turn them up?!’ Taylor’s sound management is excellent, it muffles the noise for the neighbourhood, but not for the ringers. All were invited to see the ringing chamber and have a go.
Foundations for the Future
At the first AGM, Charlotte Kirwan was voted in as ‘Founder Member’ in recognition of her support for the project from the very start.
Ringing Master: Phillip Ridley
Tower Secretary: Michael Uphill
Steeple Keeper: Nick
Assistant Steeple Keeper: Anthony Rands
A band is born.
The band welcomes all ringers for practice on Sundays at 4:30-6pm, Service ringing and Tower visits. Please contact Michael Uphill for more information.
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