St Stephen's Church Bells

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The church possesses a tower situated centrally between the nave and chancel. The bells are rung on the ground floor, which is very unusual and gives the congregation an opportunity bell1to watch. The bells at Winsham have the unfortunate reputation of being extremely difficult to ring, mainly due to excessive unguided length of rope (but many people have learned to ring here successfully and have no fear to ring any where else). 

As well as serving as a ringing chamber the area at the base of the tower also contains the choir stalls (which were made from the original old oak bell frames) that must be removed before ringing. On the south wall is an Ellacombe chiming apparatus from which any of the bells may be sounded and tunes can be played.

The bells were augmented from five to eight in 1894, when a former heavier tenor bell was scrapped and the ring remodelled using the old fourth bell as the tenor. The old second bell had to be recast to sharpen it by a semitone to keep the bells in tune in a major scale. Thus only three of the previous bells survive. The five new bells were cast and hung in 1894.

The church possesses a ring of eight bells all as follows :-

Bell Treble
Diameter 28" (711mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (236kg) 4 - 2 - 16
Note F
Date 1894
Founder Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel

Bell Second
Diameter 29" (736mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (276kg) 5 - 1 - 20
Note E
Date 1894
Founder Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel

Bell Third
Diameter 30" (762mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (308kg) 6 - 0 - 7
Note D
Date 1894
Founder Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel

Bell Fourth
Diameter 32" (812mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (364kg) 7 - 0 - 18
Note C
Date 1894
Founder Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel

Bell Fifth
Diameter 34" (836mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (400kg) 7 - 3 - 13
Note B
Date 1875
Founder Warner & Sons, London

Bell Sixth
Diameter 37" (940mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (433kg) 8 - 2 - 3
Note A
Date 1894
Founder Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel

Bell Seventh
Diameter 39" (990mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (535kg) 10 - 2 - 4
Note G
Date 1720
Founder Thomas Wroth, Wellington

Bell Tenor
Diameter 43" (1092mm)
Weight cwts. qua. lbs (691kg) 13 - 2 - 11
Note F
Date 1583
Founder William Cole, Mudford (possibly)

A report in the “Chard and Ilminster”, transcribed below, tells the story of the dedication of the new bells in 1894. ( With thanks to John Gapper).

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Dedication of Winsham Bells in 1894

From the Chard and Ilminster Gazette - 8th December 1894

WINSHAM

The dedication of the Bells took place on Monday. The peal formerly consisted of five, but has now been increased to eight. The old Tenor, re-cast in 1803, was badly cracked through the old method of striking the bell with a rope attached to the clapper.  The oldest bell in the tower, the fourth, bearing the date 1583, now becomes the Tenor.  The former second has also been recast and turnd (sic.). The present fifth, formerly the Treble, was recast by Warner in 1876; the old third is now the seventh.  The work was entrusted to Mr Thomas Blackbourne, Bellfounder of Salisbury, at a cost of about £230, and he has executed it to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. The cost of the work is the gift from the family of the Rev. George Ware MA, formerly vicar of this Parish. An Ellacombe chiming apparatus is being fixed through the generous kindness of the Rev. Henry Ware of Guilford, youngest son of the late Vicar.

 The first service was held at 2:30 p.m. and was conducted by the vicar, the Rev. D.H. Spencer. The first lesson was read by the Rev. C. R. Elmington of  Chard; the second by the Rev. R. P. Billing, Vicar of Lopen.  After the dedication of prayers a short peal was rung, followed by a sermon from the Rev. John Middleton Ware, Rector of Ullingswick. The musical part of the service was well rendered, a beautiful hymn being sung by the Rev. T. Childs Clarke, Vicar of Thorbiton. Mr. W. Northcombe presided at the organ, accompanied by Miss Traill and Miss Spencer on their violins. After the service a peal of double Norwich was rung, occupying three hours nine minutes, and consisting of 5,040 changes, by a ringing guild from Salisbury. A second service was held in the evening, when there was a crowded congregation. An eloquent sermon was preached by the Rev. H. Stuart King, Vicar of Tatworth. There was a collection at each service. The bells are hung on a massive framework of iron, and are rung from the floor of the church instead of a loft above as heretofore.

 The ringers partook of an excellent dinner provided by host Forsey of the Bell Inn, by the kindness of Colonel Henley, and a supper at the Vicarage.

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The article above refers to “Thomas Blackbourne, Bell founder”, whereas the earlier table credits Mears and Stainbank with the casting of the new bells.  It is likely that the bells were cast by M&S, while Blackbourne constructed the supporting frames and carried out the bell hanging.  The inscriptions on the current bells were examined and bells 1 to 4 and no. 6 do indeed bear the name “Mears and Stainbank”.  Other inscriptions are listed below: 

Bell No.

               Inscription

1

E V WARE      DEDIT ME

2

E A BILLING (N WARE)…..DEDIT ME

3

F J WARE (VERA S.S.S.M.)     DEDIT ME

4

S A WARE       DEDIT ME

5

CAST BY JOHN WARNER 1875     D H SPENCER   VICAR
W F S
NELL AND J BRADFORD      CHURCHWARDENS

6

1753 RECAST 1894     T.R.B.F.      JOHN STUCKEY [AND] HILLARY WILLIS     C.W.
D H S
PENCER   VICAR     R HARVEY [AND] F B FOWLER   CHURCHWARDENS

7

1720   CHURCHWARDENS   JEFFERY PYSING [AND] WILLIAM TUCKER

8

GAUDETE SEMPER IN DOMINO      ANNO DOMINE  1583

 The Ware family names are explained in the newspaper report.  Presumably, Miss E A Ware had married Rev. Billing.  The Rev. George Ware was Vicar of Winsham 1831-1870 and  Daniel H Spencer was vicar from 1870 to 1920.  "Dedit me” is Latin for “gave me” and “Gaudete Semper In Domino” can be translated as “Rejoice in the Lord always”.  Regarding the no. 6 bell, Messrs. Stuckey and Willis were churchwardens in 1753 when the bell was originally cast, and the other names refer to 1894.

The Winsham churchwardens’ accounts give more information.  In 1753/4 they show that £18 was paid to Mr. Rock for casting the new bell.  In May 1719, approximately £16 was paid for the no.3 bell (now the 7th).  In October 1772, it was agreed that Thomas Baily of Bridgewater, Bellfounders, should take down and recast the tenor bell, and in 1773/4 they (now spelt Bayley) were paid approximately £32.  In January 1803 the same bell again needed attention.  The old bell weighed 18 cwt  2 qtr 12 lbs and an estimate of £28 was agreed for the casting of the new bell.  The founder, Isaac Kingstone of Bridgwater, was asked to aim for a weight of 20 cwt.  The final payment for this work was made in January 1804.


 


 

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This page revised 20 March 2016

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