Bell Ringers

St. Martins Church Bell Ringers

Tower captain:  Mr Dia CartwrightIMG_1579

Contact number: 01691 778215

Please do contact us about joining the new team of ringers here (beginners welcome) or if you would like to make arrangements to visit us.

A Short History of the Clocks and Bells of St Martins Parish Church

bell01The clock in our tower dates from 1841 and was supplied by Ebenezer Fisher who, with his wife Margaret, had a watch and clock-making business in Cross Street, Ellesmere between 1839 and 1846. It is the only known church clock that that bears his name and, for a long time, it was thought he acted merely as a dealer of a product of some other maker.The setting dial on the movement bears the inscription ‘E. Fisher, Ellesmere, 1841’ and an additional brass plate has the legend ‘J. Rogers, F.W. Smith, Churchwardens’. However, in the course of the recent restoration, Fisher’s name has been found engraved on several other components, leading to the view that he did indeed make it himself.

bell06It was constructed as an eight day, two-train type and is housed in a ‘chair’ style of frame. The ‘going’ train (that drives the hands) is regulated by an anchor escapement mechanism. Alongside this is the hour striking train that uses the tenor bell in the belfry above. Prior to the recent restoration it was driven by two weights of approximately 112lb (50kg) and 165lb (75kg) which had to be wound by hand each week. They hung on steel wires that passed over pulleys in the clock chamber ceiling and fell inside a shaft down to ground level, a distance of over 32 feet (nearly 10 metres).

The wooden pendulum is 7′ 4½” (2.25m) long with a large metal ‘bob’ at the bottom. About half way down is a small tray with a peg to take a number of washers for finely regulating the accuracy. Adding or removing a washer adjusts the clock by about 1 minute per week, something that is needed throughout the seasons in response to changes in weather conditions.

For much of its life the clock would have been the only timepiece available to local residents. Correct time would be maintained by comparison with a brass sundial made by Thomas Hampson of Wrexham in 1729. This disappeared several years ago, though its stone plinth can still be seen in the southern part of the churchyard.

bell00In 2002 the clock face was restored and the roman numerals, hands and minute marks re-gilded by J.B. Joyce & Co of Whitchurch. In 2008 the movement itself began to cause problems.  It was restored to good working order by Joyce & Co and keeps excellent time to this day!

Prior to 1959 the tower had three bells which, according to H.B. Walter’s ‘The Church Bells of Shropshire’ published in 1915, were “in a shocking condition and the treble cracked”. In 1959 John Taylor of Loughborough (one of only two bell-founders now remaining in the UK) re-cast the old treble and added three lighter bells to make a ring of six. These were hung for change ringing in a new metal frame capable of taking eight.

bell02The re-cast bell, now the fourth, was originally cast by William Clibury in 1632. The present fifth and sixth are by the same founder and dated 1634; these two were quarter turned in 1959 and hung in canon retaining headstocks. It is thought that these three bells originated from Clibury’s branch foundry at Holt, near Wrexham, rather than at his home at Wellington, Shropshire. They bear the following inscriptions:

4th GLORIA IN EXCELSVS DEO 1632

TAYLOR LOUGHBOROUGH 1959

5th GOD SAVE HIS CHVRCH OVR KING AND REALME 1634

6th SOLI DEO IMMORTALI SIT GLORIA 1634

The tenor was described as ‘a particularly fine bell bearing an oak leaf border between the words’ by the bell historian Ranald Clouston in 1988. It measures 353/8″ (905mm) in diameter at the lip, weighs 7cwt 2qtr 22lbs (391kg) and strikes the note A. The two 1634 bells are of sufficient historical interest to have been listed for preservation.

The recent schemes have cost a little over £6,000 in total, a sum that has been found in part from the church’s own resources and in part from gifts and grants as follows:

Allchurches Trust £500
Mr & Mrs Roy Benson £500
Friends of St Martins Parish Church £1,000
Garfield Weston Foundation £1,000
Local Joint Committee (Shropshire Council) £1,000
St Martins Bell ringers fund £500
St Martins Parish Council £100
St Martins PCC £1,000
Joan Vernon – fundraising event £97
Anonymous donation £500

The church wishes to publicly record its thanks to all these individuals and organisations for their support for the schemes.

For much of its life, the church clock would have been the only timepiece available to local residents. Whilst such dependence on its function is now merely history, the existence of the clock and it’s regular striking of the hours is a familiar and comforting presence for many.

About three years ago, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme ran a feature on what sounds define Englishness; church bells were the listeners’ choice. The regular striking of the clock and the ringing of the bells for Sunday services, weddings and occasions of National significance are well-loved fixtures in our aural landscape.