The Bells of St Anne's

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Bell Restoration

The ancient bells, which have been restored and re-hung in the tower together with an additional tenor bell, were rededicated by the Bishop of Aston, at the Family Service on Sunday 3rd December, 2000. By coincidence, this was the 60th anniversary of the day the church was partially destroyed during the Second World War.

As is recorded in an inventory of 1552 three of these bells originally hung in the tower of St. Mary’s, Moseley, and were later recast as follows.

No. Founder Inscription
1 Hugh Watts of Leicester God save the King 1638
2 John Martin of Worcester Jesus bee our good speed 1650
3 William Brooke of Bromsgrove Wm. Brooke cast me, Samuel Smith Junier, Churchwarden 1740

In 1874 these bells were replaced with a new octave of steel bells and the old bells were given to the newly-built church of St. Anne. They were hung in a new oak frame prepared for five bells at the expense of Rebecca Anderton, who also added a fourth bell. This tenor bell bears the inscription "James Barwell, founder Birmingham 1874" and has recently been described as an excellent casting of superb tone quality. It is of interest to note that James Barwell’s great-great-grandson, also James Barwell, is a member of our present-day congregation.

Bell Restoration

Bell Restoration

As early as 1875 a list of deficiencies in the older bells appears in a report, and in 1882 James Barwell submitted quotations for re-casting the ancient bells, replacing the seventeenth century fittings and providing a new tenor bell, all at a cost of £107, but surprisingly, no action was taken.

Initially it was intended that change ringers operating in the bell ringing chamber above the porch should ring the bells full-circle. However, in the inventory of 1884 an Ellacombe chiming apparatus is recorded as having been installed. By this method, which was used until recently, the bells remained stationary and were struck on the inner rim by hammers operated by hand from a chime manual in the porch.

In the course of time the condition of the bell fittings deteriorated; the metal straps became worn and corroded with rust, and the supporting headstocks were heavily weathered and split, so that the bells were in danger of falling and causing damage. Last year the decision was taken to replace all the fittings and, together with an additional bell, hang the bells in such a way that they could be chimed gently on the swing.

The bells finally (re)installed in the belfry

The bells finally (re)installed in the belfry

The additional bell was cast by George Oldfield of Nottingham and bears the inscription ‘IHS Nazarenvs Rex Ivdeorvm 1665 ( G+O)’. It was formerly the tenor of the old peal of three bells in the parish church, now demolished, at Bagworth in Leicestershire.

The work now completed by Hayward Mills Associates for the sum of £24,380 consisted in removing the four bells from the tower and taking them to their Nottingham workshops. They were then re-tuned in conjunction with the fifth bell in order to bring them into a proper major scale relationship. They were returned and hoisted into the belfry where they were re-hung in the existing frame with new fittings, which include steel headstocks and cast iron clappers.

Rev Alan Reynolds tries out the restored bells

Rev Alan Reynolds
tries out the restored bells

Ropes now descend to the porch where a team can ring a wide selection of peals by swing chiming. When an insufficient number of bell ringers is available to make up a team, a peal can be rung mechanically by an electronically operated system. For this option the bells remain stationary and are struck by hammers on the outer rim, although the sound is not as loud as with swing chiming. A single bell can be tolled by either method.

The provision of the additional tenor bell and the restoration of the ancient bells have been made possible by the generosity the family of a former parishioner. They have made this munificent gift to St Anne’s in memory of their mother, Joy Simmons, a worshipper at the church for many years. We are most grateful to the whole family for enabling us to complete our millennial celebrations in such style.

From an article in Spire, December 2000