New Bells 2017-18

New bells... and encouraging younger bell ringers

Two new bells are to be added to the extising eight bells that already hang in the St Andrew's church bell tower.

The new bells were cast at the Loughborough Bell Foundry of John Taylor & Co on 30th November 2017 (St Andrew’s Day). They were cast in a traditional way from an alloy of copper and tin. Each new bell weighs around 4 cwt (200kg) - a size a bit larger than the existing treble bell (pictured left). 

The new bells form part of a strategy to maintain St Andrew’s Backwell as a centre of excellence for bell ringing across North Somerset. The present bell frame was installed in 1901 with six bells, then two more were added in 1938, but no major work had been done since, and, with the fittings wearing out, the bells are becoming increasingly difficult to ring. The bell ringers with the support of the church council have developed a strategy that will not only sort out the problems but will also make it easier to teach new ringers and provide a focus for ringing in the area. The two new bells will provide a full ring of ten bells and also a light ring of six which can be used for training younger ringers.

Cracks in the tower wall caused by rusting of the bell frame will be repaired, and the existing and new bells will be re-hung with new or refurbished fittings.  A sound management system that will reduce the sound coming from the tower during practice sessions will also be installed.  All of the work is planned to take place during 2018.

The bell ringing team have already been pro-actively recruiting and training new ringers, with regular after-school ringing sessions for young ringers now held in addition to the normal practice sessions. Tower Captain Tony Cox says: "Our new young bell ringers are making excellent progress in what can be a challenging and rewarding hobby as well as providing a service to the church. Ringing is an excellent physical activity but also requires concentration and mental dexterity. We feel it is very important for the experienced ringers to pass on their skills and knowledge to new generations of ringers. The two new bells, being relatively light, will be manageable by children from about 12 and so enable them to master the multiple skills required. The new bells will also give us the flexibility to ring on a light or heavy ring of six, as well as the present eight or all ten”.

One of the new bells is to be dedicated to the memory of John Brain. John was a true Backwell character and man of Somerset. His life centred around St Andrew's church where he undertook many roles, notably a faithful member of the church choir and a highly skilled bell ringer well-known throughout the bell ringing community. When John died in 2010 aged 82 he left a generous legacy for the upkeep and maintenance of the church and bells at St Andrew's. Funds from the John Brain legacy will be used towards the refurbishment of the existing bells and the repairs to the tower. The extra cost of the new bells has been raised through generous donations from across the bell-ringing community in memory of John and grants from local and national Bell Ringing Societies. Dedicating one of the new bells in his name will be a fitting tribute.

St Andrew’s Chucrch Council has been delighted to work with bell ringing team on this initiative. Backwell folk love to hear the sound of the church bells. St Andrew’s church building sits up on the hill at the heart of what was the ancient village of Backwell but now a little distance from today’s village centre. So the bells continue their original purpose – an audible reminder for the people of Backwell that the church is here for all, and an invitation to come and join in.