A very long article appeared in our church magazine late in 2012 and this spoke about the fiftieth anniversary of our church bells on 25th November 2012. As part of the morning service their dedication back in 1962 was remembered. Currently there were six bells in the tower and the number of changes that can be rung is more variable than the “Come to Church” of the original three bells. The message was still the same to call people to worship. Since their dedication 50 years ago, ringers have continued to ring for Sunday services, every morning and every evening when possible.
The church also has a dedicated band of ringers, most of whom have connections with our church as it is regarded as part of church life. In recent times they tried to compile of list of people who had rung, and more than fifty names were on the paper. Some moved away and others rang at other towers, but one remains here since the start.
One of the bell ringers, Margaret, wrote a further article for the February 2013 church magazine. In this she said – the end of November 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the six bells at All Saints. It was a privilege to be a part of the anniversary service on 25th November 2012. She thanked the vicar for leading such a meaningful service and to the members of the Colchester Handbell Society for their ringing.
Thanks are due most of all to the ringers themselves who not only took part in the service but who ring regularly each Sunday. We also appreciate the continuing support and encouragement from the members of the congregation.
Looking back at history, we find the following that in the beginning in 1845, there were three bells in the church tower. They ring out a call to worship … Come to church, Come to church. For more than a hundred years the bells are rung every Sunday and they are expected to ring out with neither attention nor maintenance.
Now going forward to 1956 and at a PCC meeting, the Reverend R H Darby reported that the bell founders from Whitechapel had inspected the bells. The bell frame was in good order but the stocks and wheels were riddled with woodworm and the ropes were threadbare.
As the bell cage was large enough to accommodate further bells, an estimate was sought, not only to repair but to add additional bells. In September 1960 instructions were given for the work to proceed and on 24th November 1962, the bells were dedicated.
During 2012 a magazine article looked at the word belfry and it was defined as a bell tower, a room or storey in which bells are hung. However it would seem that the original word may have had a different meaning. However the Middle English word was belfrey and at first was referred to as a siege tower, a wooden construction designed to protect besiegers, whilst they were attacking a fortification. The word shifted its meaning about the fifteenth century to mean a tower where a watchman was based. The members of often had good trips out visiting other churches or just meeting on a social basis.
From a years was found an old newspaper and an article that was found, it had a picture of Nigel that had him holding a Romanian Icon, this was given to our vicar, here at the time, Chris, whilst he was in that country. This was the star attraction at the Art Show, and this was on show as the church was attempting to raise £6,000 that was needed to repair timbers in the tower. It was said that All Saints was only three churches in Colchester at that time who had working bells and had an active ringing group.
With thanks to Margaret, there is quite a bit of history to our Bellringers. This gave us a bit of history to the first 117 years of them.
All Saints Church was consecrated in April 1845. On May 15th 1845 an entry was made in the Sales Day Book of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry regarding an order for three bells, ropes, bell frame etc at a cost of £152.00. The bells were cast for the church by the Foundry and, once installed, were rung regularly from the porch for church services. They were rung without inspection or attention for the next 110 years.
At the PCC meeting held in September 1956 the then Vicar, the Rev. H.R. Darby reported that the bell-founders, from Whitechapel (Mears and Stainbank), had inspected the bells.
The bell frame was in good order but the stocks and wheels were riddled with woodworm, the ropes threadbare. As the bell cage was large enough to accommodate further bells, an estimate was sought, not only for repairs but for additional bells.
The report was delayed as the apologetic tone of the opening of that report shows. Our bells were obviously in exalted company!
22nd November 1956
Shrub End (Lexden) Church Bells
We must apologise for the long delay in meeting our report on your church bells. It has been due to the exceptional consecretation we have to move during the last few weeks on Big Ben and for the quarter bells and also on Bow Bells.
Your three bells were cast and hung by us in 1845 at a cost of 15, 0s 3d. The weights are –
6 cwts 3 qrs 8lbs, 4 cwts 3 qrs 9lbs and 4 cwts 1 qr and 7 lbs.
At the PCC meeting of December 1956 the Vicar read a report from Whitechapel with an estimate for putting the bells in order at £212-8s.
A decision was deferred.
In September 1960 instruction was given for the work to proceed and a request made for the cost of two individual bells to be added to the existing three.
In June 1961 a revised quote was given by Whitechapel for the installation of three extra bells. We can find no record regarding when the decision was made to have a ring of six bells rather than five.
A letter from Whitechapel containing specifications and the total price for the installation of six bells was sent to the PCC in June 1961.
The same letter recommended that the ringing should no longer be from the ground floor of the porch but from ‘the first floor level’.
In June 1962 the Vicar, the Rev. L.J. Reading, wrote about the bells in the Parish Magazine. He gave an update about the progress of the work and made a plea for donations to complete the total cost. As can be seen from the excerpt below, the majority of the money still needed to be raised.
SHRUB END PARISH MAGAZINE
Price; - 4d
All Saints’ Vicarage
My Dear Friends,
The majority of you will know by now that the church clock has ceased to chime the hours, and that the bell can no longer be rung for services. The three bells have been dismantled and taken off to Mears & Stainbank's Foundry at Whitechapel, there to be melted down and with additional metal to be recast as six smaller ones. We understand that there is every hope that this work, and the restoration, of the belfry will be completed in time for the bells to be ringing at Christmas
Two other things will need to be done. The cost of all this will be about £1,500, and at the moment we have only £500. If anyone would like to give a bell (or bells) as a memorial to ring out to the glory of God, we should not find it difficult to accept, It would be easier if we knew fairly soon, so that the bell-founders could incorporate an inscription on the casting. The second thing needed is a team of ringers. We shall be very glad to hear of anyone who would like to join, so that we can arrange for some training on another peal of bells
In November 1962 it was reported in the Parish Magazine that the work was almost complete and that local bellringers were already training a team of people to ring at All Saints.
The six new bells are now installed in their new frame in the belfry, and when the builders have completed some minor adaptations, they will be completely ready for use.
The Dedication will take place on Saturday, November 24th, at 3.00 p.m. We are most grateful for the assistance and encouragement of the local bellringers, and especially those from St. Peter's and St. Leonard's [at-the-Hythe].
We have made a start with a team of our own but we do need more volunteers. Practices have been arranged for Monday evenings at 7.30, and we shall be very pleased to see anyone who would like to join. Previous experience is not necessary, although we shall naturally be glad to have anyone who has been a ringer.
The bells were dedicated on Saturday 24th November 1962. The Rev. Darby, who oversaw the initial stages of negotiations with Whitechapel, was invited to be present at the dedication service.
During the Summer the Ringers arrange trips and go with their friends to visit other churches, the photos below show them at – Rumburgh, north of Halesworth in Suffolk and Reydon, on the outskirts of Southwold, who had a flower festival when we visited. We were just in time to witness a ‘teddy-bear drop’.