Local Tower Information

Chippenham Branch

Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association

St Mary Magdalene, Tormarton - click for a larger versionSt Mary Magdalene, Tormarton



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Unringable; the bell is clapper-chimed from the ground floor of the tower, and has probably not been rung full-circle for many years. The wheel has also been tied to the bellframe to prevent the bell from swinging.

The bell is hung by its canons with bolted ironwork from an elm headstock on plain bearings, between two massive oak beams that comprise the bellframe. Its fittings include an iron peg stay and latchet slider that is rusted solid, a wooden ground pulley attached to the bellframe, and a conventional wheel that seems somewhat overly large; however, it is probably contemporary with the bell. The clapper was purchased new with the bell and is hung from a cast-in crown staple. Although cast by Charles & George Mears, the bell is inscribed "P LEWELLIN BRISTOL", indicating that Peter Llewellin undertook the rehanging but sub-contracted the casting of the new bell to the Mears foundry.

The clapper is held close to the mouth of the bell but offset from its normal striking point, the rope passing over a pulley before descending through the original rope hole in the belfry floor. Below here it is drawn at an angle to a second pulley on the floor below, which guides it through a hole in the south-east corner. Considering the position of this lower rope hole, and the fact that there was once an intermediate floor between it and the belfry, it is likely that the Ringing Room was originally on the first floor of the tower. However, the absence of a suitable trapdoor to allow the bell to descend to the ground floor suggests that this floor was replaced at a date later than 1851, so any previous rope holes would have been lost.

The beams of the bellframe span the full width of the tower from east to west, the northern beam being almost in the middle of the room. Each is supported only at its ends which rest on the window sills. There is evidence that a third beam once spanned the tower parallel to the existing two, providing support for a second bell to the north of the present one. Parts of this third beam may have been used when the present bell was hung. According to the Churchwardens' Accounts from 1851, bell metal weighing 9-0-10 was sold to defray the cost of the new bell and its clapper. This bell metal was probably from an earlier pair of bells. No mention was made of any other new fittings, so the headstock and indeed the wheel may have survived from the earlier installation, and maybe from a larger bell.

In early 1998 the church was offered a light ring of six steel bells. They had been sold to the then-owner on the understanding that they would be used primarily for practice purposes, and various towers in sparsely-populated areas were considered to hold them. However, a lack of interest and potential ringers led to the church declining the offer.

The bells of St Mary Magdalene, Tormarton
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
16-3-11 33 inB Charles & George Mears 1851

Source: Inspected personally 15th November 2007; founder from Robin Shipp and Nick Bowden. Weight (of the bell with the clapper) extracted from Tormarton Churchwardens' accounts for 1851. Further information from "Bristol Rural News" (February 1998) and Gwynne & Valerie Stock.

Where a bell's exact weight is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.