St Mary’s Bellringers

When St Mary’s bells are rung

On Sundays from 10 – 10.30 am
For weddings
On Wednesday evenings from 7.45 – 9 pm (ringing practice)
National Celebrations

Saturday 30 September, 5.15-6 pm
St Mary’s tower is pleased to host the bellringers of St John Leytonstone, to ring in the Harvest festival tomorrow.
They’ll be in for a big change when they get up there! The view from St John’s tower.

Thursday 5 October, 5.10-5.40 pm
Today the bells will be rung by another visiting band of ringers, coming from a variety of places including East Cheshire, Stoke on Trent, Shropshire and other places around the country.

About the bellringers

St Mary’s bells are rung regularly by the team headed by tower captain Adrienne Wood. If you are interested in the art of church bell ringing she would be more than happy to arrange your introduction to it! You can contact her through the above link.
Regular bell ringing practice is weekly on Wednesdays, from 7.45 pm. It lasts on and off for about an hour until 9 pm.
The bells are rung for weddings (if requested), and a tolling (single) bell will be heard at funerals to alert the community to the passing of one from their midst.
Special occasion ringing may happen to mark national events, or when visiting ringers have been given permisson for a peal attempt. When such irregular events are imminent a notice will be posted on the News page of this site.

General information about bell ringing in English parishes can be found on the web site of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringing .
Any issues about bell ringing should in the first instance be addressed to the parish priest.

2016 overview
We are in the enviable position of having sufficient ringers available for most occasions, even though many other towers throughout the country struggle to make up numbers. We even have enough ringers to make up two teams! Sometimes we are joined by a couple of experienced ringers from the Tendring area.

Unfortunately we have not had any new learners joining us this year. If you think you would like to learn to ring, or just fancied seeing how bellringers operate, please contact our tower captain, Adrienne …..
We would very much welcome anyone who is interested in finding out more to come and investigate us.
One such recent visit was from a mum and her teenage son. He had assumed that the sound of bells came from an automatic recording, so it was a real eye opener for him to see that there were indeed real people behind the sounds!

As in previous years, we have rung for quite a number of weddings, and recently for the wedding of one of our own ringers!
The tolling of the tenor bell for funeral services, as the funeral cortege leaves the church and churchyard, continues to be carried out by our more experienced ringers. The slow, controlled technique required for ringing in this way is a very skilled action, taking time to perfect.

As a group we have ventured further afield in both Essex and Suffolk, spending several very pleasant Saturdays  ringing at other towers in the Halstead/Gosfield area, and the Coddenham//Otley area. This gives valuable experience to the ringers, as the ring of bells in each tower is unique and provides a challenge as well as a convivial day out in the East Anglian countryside. An added bonus at one of the churches we visited was a coffee morning and plant sale taking place! The social side of ringing extends to us supporting the local pubs and coffee shops (after we have rung, of course!)

The recent work to the church roof caused us a few problems as the bell ropes became excessively damp and unsafe to use. We overcame this problem by inserting the lower section of the ropes into a long plastic tube which helped keep them dry.

The bells themselves are still in good condition, following the refurbishment in 1998, although we  continue to keep a close eye on all the working parts and ensure that the bells are properly maintained. Some of the bell ropes are showing signs of wear, but after 18 years of use this is only to be expected. We may order a few spare ropes shortly as well as a spare stay or two to replace those damaged over the years. The stay, made from Ash wood, is the safety valve, designed to break before more expensive damage occurs to the working parts of the mechanism. It is regarded as an expendible item.

Throughout the year we have continued to receive many compliments from local residents and passers-by who enjoy and appreciate hearing the bells ringing over Wivenhoe, some even regarding this as one of the many highlights of living here. We are appreciated further afield too. Across the river in Fingringhoe, one generous couple go out of their way to express their appreciation of our bellringing by sending us bottles of wine every Christmas!
To us this demonstrates  the importance of the church bells, both within the wider community and for St Mary’s itself.

We all feel fortunate to be part of such a great group of people, enjoying a skill whose tradition goes back hundreds of years. We are fortunate to have the unswerving support of Erwin our Rector, and his congregation, and look forward to continue to serve our community for generations to come.

Dickie Furminger Trophy

Every year the Essex Association of Change Ringers organises a competition for ringers to compete for the Dickie Furminger Trophy. In 2014 the competition was held at St George’s church, Great Bromley on Saturday 21 June.

Ten people signed up to take part, so this meant that we could enter 2 teams – the first called the “Ding” team made up of 6 members and the remaining 4, together with a pair of kind ringers from another local church, made up the “Dong” team.

Many of us had not rung in any competition before so it was with some trepidation that we arrived for the event. The sun was shining, the birds singing and the church standing solidly in the rose-decked churchyard – the epitome of a perfect rural summer afternoon!

The teams were drawn from ringers from Harwich, Mistley, Ardleigh, Great Bentley and Colchester St Leonard as well as us from Wivenhoe.
The competition judge – a very experienced ringer, was dispatched into the nearby Rectory gardens so he couldn’t see any comings and goings of the team members and the draw for the order to ring was made.

The rules were that each team had two minutes to practice and make any adjustments needed. As the church was one that most of us had not rung in before, it was important to check if we needed to stand on a box to make the correct height comfortable to ring, and to feel how the bells themselves handled.
St George’s bells were much heavier than the ones we were used to – the biggest bell, the tenor being 15cwt compared with 7cwt at St Mary’s.

Once the teams had had their designated two minutes warm up, monitored carefully by an official timekeeper in the bell chamber, the actual competition began and there was a further five minutes for the teams to ring their best, changing the order of the bells as called by one of the team – hence the name of the competition “Call Changes”. The idea is to ring steadily and smoothly, listening carefully to the other ringers and produce a perfectly struck, rhythmic sound.
Although the bells were heavier, we all found that they were a real joy to ring….. Indeed if they had a car equivalent, I think most of us would have equated them as being of the Rolls Royce variety!

Once each team had rung their 5 minutes competition piece, the judge returned from among the raspberry canes in the Rectory gardens, gave comments about each individual team – known to him only as Team 1, Team 2 etc – and gave the results.
St Mary’s ringers were delighted as they had come in first AND second place, so were able to celebrate this achievement and enjoy the barbecue that was provided.

We returned to Wivenhoe with the trophy which will remain in pride of place until next year when, I am sure, there will be many ringers ready to defend our title!
Enjoy the pictures of the event, shown below. Clicking on the first picture will start the slide show.
** The 10th member of the team – Ant Woolnough isn’t in the photo as he had to make a quick exit for another appointment.

One Response to St Mary’s Bellringers

  1. Kaye Coyle says:

    So nice to see my dad’s trophy still being competed for.


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