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Home News South Wraxall bells ring full Circle for first time in over a century

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South Wraxall bells ring full Circle for first time in over a century

by Michael Ford last modified 08 Jun, 2022 02:02 PM

For the first time since the 1880's, the bells at St James' South Wraxall have been rung full circle, after their repair and restoration was completed.

Only one person in the village had rung church bells before, and she had not touched a bell for 40 years - however everything came rushing back to her as she joined in bell ringing for this special moment. The rest of the group to ring the bells were complete beginners.  

Christopher Thornhill, a member of the PCC at St James', says,  

"So far nine of us South Wraxallers are under instruction by members of the Devizes Branch and we are deeply indebted to all of those who patiently and expertly teach our rather overwhelming numbers week after week. We are very grateful to the SDGR for a grant from the Llewellyn Edwards Bell Restoration Fund (LEBRF); also to the Keltek Trust, The CCCBR and The AllChurches Trust.  The bulk of the funds were raised in South Wraxall and from nearby well-wishers. 

"Full circle ringing stopped in the 1880s,  due, we believe, to broken bell wheels, and the bells were thereafter only chimed until the 1960s; since then they were all but silent. They have now been conserved and restored and re-hung by Matthew Higby (Higby and Co Ltd of Holcombe Somerset). Two of the bells were cracked and have been successfully welded by Soundwell Ltd of Newmarket and a small amount of 'conservation' tuning has brought them into line with the others. The old oak frame was very rotten in parts and becoming a dangerous liability; Matthew has designed, built and installed a beautiful new steel bell-frame and last Tuesday's trial ring was probably the first time our bells have been rung full circle for about a hundred and forty years.  

"It was a fine and welcome sound, much appreciated by the many South Wraxallers who turned out to hear them and drink to their restoration in the Long's Arms. The restoration is warmly welcomed by the bell-ringing community of the Devizes Branch of the SDGR; and many distinguished ringers took part in the trial ring, including Matthew Higby himself. One of the ringers, a former DAC Bells Adviser, told me it had been one of his life's ambitions to ring our bells." 

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