Coronavirus ~ March 2020
Bell ringing is suspended until further notice.
Bell ringing practice takes place on Thursday evenings between 7:30pm and 9:00pm
The bells were ringing at St. James the Great church on Saturday, 7th March to proclaim the 90th birthday of prominent former bell ringer, David Smith (left)
He and his family members were in attendance at the church.
David was Tower Captain at St. James's for some ten years and remains the Tower Correspondent, liaising with visiting ringers.
The celebratory ‘Quarter Peal’ (QP) on all eight bells was rung to a ‘method’ (a pattern of ringing) called, appropriately for David’s 90th birthday, ‘Grandsire Doubles’. There were, also appropriately, 1,300 and 90 changes. Changes are where the bells change position in relation to each other and all 1,390 were completed in exactly 51 minutes of continuous ringing.
David rang his first bell in 1953 and was the momentum behind the formation of two bands of ringers at St. James’s.
South Leigh ringers Heather Horner and Evadne Vallance said, “Thank you, David, for many years’ dedication to bell ringing. And thank you, too, to ringers from other local towers for their support on this special occasion”. It was Heather’s first QP on eight bells, and would have been Evadne’s though, in the event, she had to drop out at short notice. Thank you, to the Vicar and Church Wardens for their kind permission.
Clockwise from front right: Heather Horner, Sue Rhodes, Alison Merryweather-Clarke (Conductor), Julie Minch, Neil R. Ephgrave, Michael Probert, Andrew Goldthorpe and Nigel Eagle.
New Heads at the Tower Church bells have probably been ringing in South Leigh for over six hundred years, and big changes recently will ensure that they are not going to stop any time soon! Bell ringing was suspended in early March, sadly, due to the need for social distancing.
Above: In the Ringing Chamber of St. Mary the Virgin, Witney, a peal board records David’s involvement in bellringing for nigh on 70 years.
South Leigh resident, Heather Horner, left, ringing the No. 2 bell, was elected Tower Captain at the Tower AGM on 22nd January and succeeds Alison Merryweather-Clarke, who held the position for over four years after the retirement of our celebrated nonagenarian, David Smith. Thank you to both Alison and David for your dedication and service. Alison has been teaching a new band of South Leigh ringers, and will continue to offer tuition to local learners.
Martin Spurrier, March 2020
The role of Tower Captain is quite a job! It involves the overall responsibility to the Church Warden, Vicar and the Diocese for the bell ringing on Sundays and on other special and State occasions.
Heather is responsible for the recruitment of bell ringers, and for accessing training for them and for the Steeple Keepers. She also liaises with the Guild of Church Bell Ringers to ensure that the Health & Safety issues in the tower are adhered to. Mostly, though, she is responsible for ensuring that the bells ring for us all to enjoy.
Chaps in the Belfry
Accompanying the bats, meanwhile, Ian Thompson (rear) with Michael Collett (front) has handed over to Martin Spurrier (right) and Michael as Joint Steeple Keepers. Thank you, Ian, for five years of keeping our bells oiled and ringing. Steeple Keepers are responsible for the maintenance and good order of the bells and their ancillary equipment, the turret clock and the Ringing Chamber. The clock, built circa 1750, was last restored by the people of South Leigh for the Millennium but had become unreliable and so is currently being surveyed. We hope that we can have it back in action soon after some professional TLC.
In the last few weeks, much work has been done in the Tower. We have adjusted the ‘Ringing Circle’ and have moved some of the rope guides in order to make ringing better for the bell ringers and to reduce the wear on the bell ropes. And soon, a new Maintenance Plan and Work Schedule will include sprucing up the Ringing Chamber at the West end of the nave, at ground level.
Left: Looking down from the Clock Chamber to the Ringing Chamber. The ropes are gathered in the centre in a rope warmer. This protects them from the damp and keeps them dry and supple.
More on bells: Our current eight bells (top, right) were installed in 1907 and our ‘Sanctus Bell’ was cast in 1399! Bells are cast in bronze and our largest is over 10 cwt. That’s about half the weight of a small car. The sound of bells is glorious and evocative, but ringing and maintaining them needs knowledge and training. In due course, we hope to talk about the ancient skill of bell ringing and its history.
Find out more about bell ringing, contact Heather Horner: email@example.com 01993 357389
Martin Spurrier, March 2020
The new band emerges triumphant into the sunshine.
Left to right: Heather, Evadne, Anne, Chris, Richard
Ringers and support team after the half-muffled ring on Armistice memorial day.
Photos © Keith Chandler
South Leigh Bells