Just hours after the removal men had finished delivering furniture and boxes to the Vicarage, Fr Mark was entertaining his first guests!
The dedicated team of bell ringers were invited to meet Fr Mark at home and relax with a glass of wine and nibbles following their practice in St Mary’s Priory last night. During the afternoon, Fr Mark had been busy unpacking boxes and arranging furniture to enable this gathering to take place. Tower Captain, Peter Munday, and the other ringers certainly appreciated his hospitality on such a busy day.
Speaking about the importance of the ringing of the bells, Fr Mark said “Even those who don’t come to Church to worship will hear the bells ringing and will know that Christ is worshiped in this place. This gentle act of mission is invaluable in the life of St Mary’s.”
St Mary’s has a ring of 10 bells, the tenor weighing in at 25 cwts 18 lbs. At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-39, the parishioners bought the four bells, weighing a total of 45.5 cwt, which hung in the Priory Church.
The tenor was recast in 1603 and the 3rd recast in 1666, by the Purdues of Bristol. The treble was recast in1706 by Abraham Rudall.
The bells were augmented to five in 1835 and then to six in 1845 by Jeffries & Price of Bristol. To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887, the bells were rehung and augmented to eight by Llewellins & James of Bristol, the same firm recasting the tenor (19 cwt) in 1893.
Finally, in 1947, these bells were replaced by the present magnificent 10 from the Loughborough foundry, in thanksgiving for the end of the Second World War. They are considered to be the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom and bell-ringers from all over the country come to ring the changes.
The medieval 6th of the old ring, dated 1308, is preserved in the nave and inscribed ‘May the bell of John last many years’ – perhaps indicated that this was one of a peal of bells donated by John de Hastings, the man responsible for the first restoration of the Priory Church.
St Mary’s has a thriving group of bell ringers, who meet to practise at 8pm on Monday evenings. The bells are rung before the 11am Parish Eucharist on Sundays and also at weddings and other special occasions. Bell ringers from all over the country visit St Mary’s to ring.