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St Marys bell tower

by janet on 2 December 2011 · 2 comments

St Marys bell tower

Article & photos by John Pearson, the Walkern Journal, April 2007

View from St Marys church tower

If, like me, you take pleasure in listening to the peal of our church bells I am sure you will have enjoyed reading last month?s informative article on the Bells of St Mary?s. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea if I could photograph the bells in the church tower. So one Saturday morning I was invited by Chris Carter and his son Matthew to go up the tower as they were going to carry out some routine maintenance.

The dedication of the bell ringers extends to more than practice on Friday and ringing for the Sunday service; the bells, ropes and fittings need a good deal of attention and servicing if they are to ring smoothly. This involves scaling the tower for regular inspections of the bells and bell frame which is housed on the second floor.

So it was that I ascended the first ladder some 30 feet to the first floor. On the first floor is the clock chamber with its grand looking clock mechanism, a three-train, weight-driven, turret clock manufactured by William Potts of Leeds, and installed in 1905. It used to need hand winding and weights re-setting every two to three days, but two years ago it was converted to an automatic winding system. The clock chimes the quarters and hours using the bells numbered 2 through 6.

Clock mechanism at St Marys Walkern installed 1905

After marvelling at the clock mechanism it was onwards and upwards another 16 feet to the second floor and the bell chamber. Quite a struggle at the top to get in to the bell chamber as the six bells, their rope wheels and the frame that supports them occupy a considerable amount of room. Chris and Matthew have become quite adept at snaking their way both up and over the bells and their guidance was a must to manoeuvre around the bells. Routine work involves more than I imagined. As a complete novice I had imagined that the principle of hand bell ringing applied but with the addition of a few ropes and pulleys. In fact the mechanisms are much more complex and things such as Hastings-stays, Ellacombe chime hammers and plain bearings add to the mystery of the mechanisms. Lubrication of the plain bearings, found on five of the six bells, is needed to assure smooth operation and this is a regular task for Chris and Matthew. The plain bearings reflect the bells? age as they lack any ball-bearings and, as I understand it, the bell axle is simply

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Ron East May 6, 2016 at 8:44 am

As historians, I thought that you might be interested in this story about your chimes at St Mary’s Church, Walkern.
I am the Diocesan Bell Advisor for the Carlisle Diocese and am presently overseeing the installation of a new ‘full circle’ ring of six bells at St Patrick’s Church, Bampton in Cumbria. They are to be installed lower down in the tower beneath a ring of five 18th century bells that are to be preserved as part of the project. In 1906, a clock and chimes were installed by Potts of Leeds. The chimes ring on the old bells and are possibly the most unmusical set of chimes I have heard because of the poor sound quality of the bells. They ring out the quarters and the hours throughout the day and night and the villagers are very proud to them. Even the Crown & Mitre Inn that is across the road from the church warns guests staying B+B about the chimes and provides ear plugs for them!
The chimes intrigued me and some research discovered that they are called the Stoke St Gregory chimes. Further research revealed that the chimes were commissioned by the (Stoke St Gregory) village clock committee and were composed by Dr (later Sir) George Clement Martin, who took over from Sir John Stainer when he resigned as organist at St Paul’s in February 1888.
The following entry is from the Somerset County Gazette, 3rd July 1897:
“The clock is estimated to cost about £145, and will naturally be of great benefit to the villagers. The chimes are special in character, having been written by Dr Martin, organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, at the invitation of the Clock Committee. The clock is erected from the design of Lord Grimthorpe, with all the latest improvements, and it strikes the quarters in the usual way. The pendulum bob weighs two hundredweight, and is so compensated that the weather will have no effect on it. It also has a Lord Grimthorpe double three legged gravity escapement, and shows the time by a five feet skeleton dial. The hands are of strong copper and the bushes of gun metal, while the arbors are of steel, hardened and polished to perfection. The frame is on the horizontal principle, and the clock, which is fixed on iron brackets bolted to the wall, is guaranteed by Messrs. W. Potts and Sons of Leeds, by whom the work has been efficiently carried out, to go to a minute a year.”
I have since been in touch with Michael Potts, a descendent of the Potts family who has written a book about the history of the company. He has confirmed that the Stoke St Gregory chimes were advertised in a Potts catalogue, post 1897, and that only Stoke St Gregory, Bampton and Walkern churches have this unique chime.
You will be pleased to know that we are, of course, preserving this unique chime at Bampton when the new bells are installed. Long may the chimes disturb the guests at the inn!
Ron East


Jean Gool July 24, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Very interested in graffiti. My maiden name is Aylott and the eldest son was always William Frederick who originate from Walkern


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