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Miss Ashworth's A-pealing Legacy

by Michael Ford last modified 12 Mar, 2019 02:31 PM

The bells of a Warminster church that have rung out to announce weddings, have called people to worship on Sundays and in recent years have been rung as a farewell to the town’s regiment departing for Afghanistan, and again in celebration of its return, are now silent.

Miss Ashworth's A-pealing Legacy

Photo courtesy

Over half a century since the bells at the Minster Church of St Denys were last rehung, they have been removed from the tower – a difficult operation in itself – and taken to the workshop of local bell engineers Matthew Higby and Co, in Holcombe.

There, new components will be cast which will attach the bells to the frame, and new and more aerodynamic clappers fabricated which will make the striking of the bells much easier to control. While the belfry is empty, the frame from which the bells hang will be stripped down and recoated with protective enamel paint.

When the bells return, some repositioning will be carried out to make them a better fit into the very constricted space of the belfry, and new wheels will be installed. Finally, a complete set of new ropes will be fitted.

This work will cost in the region of £50,000, but luckily for the church the daughter of one bellringer has left them a legacy towards this.

Kathleen Rosalie Ashworth left a legacy to the Minster church in memory of her father Mr F Ashworth, expressing the wish that her gift be used for care of the bells and belfry, as "My father was a keen bellringer and I used to love hearing the sound of the bells carrying across the fields."

Miss Ashworth’s legacy was timely, as work to the bells was long overdue. Over the years the whole installation had developed a number of problems affecting the balance of the bells and clappers.This has meant that the bells were left in the raised position, which is far from ideal for safety reasons, while several of the bells had become ‘odd struck’, meaning that the interval between the pulling of the rope and the bell actually sounding is inconsistent, and needs constant adjustment by the ringer.

The present day Minster bellringers were therefore delighted to be honouring Kathleen's wish, and have raised extra funds to supplement her legacy so that all necessary work can be carried out to ensure the future of the bells for the next hundred years.

The history of bellringing at the Minster goes back several hundred years, and the eight bells themselves, tuned in the key of D major, are of historic interest. Seven of the bells, ranging in weight from 18cwt down to 7cwt, were cast in 1881 by John Warner and Sons, whose other notable bells include the clock chime at the Houses of Parliament.

The work to the bells will be complete by the summer.

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