Local Tower Information

Wotton-under-Edge Branch

Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association

St Mary the Virgin, Wotton-under-Edge - click for a larger versionSt Mary the Virgin, Wotton-under-Edge

Gloucestershire

ST760934

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The earliest record of bells in this tower is an entry in Rudhalls' catalogue in 1705 for one bell. Nothing more is known about the bells before 1756, when they were recast into a ring of eight by Abel Rudhall and hung in a large oak frame just below the belfry louvres. All was well until 1902 when a report said that all the fittings were so worn and dilapidated that ringing was quite unsafe. It also turned out that the frame had been made too light, parts of it (and the tower walls) had been cut away to allow the bells to swing, and it had decayed, so the bells were rehung five feet lower in the tower by John Taylor & Co.

They were hung with cast iron headstocks and Hastings stays, on plain bearings in a new cast iron frame on RSJs. Two bells were recast, the treble (previously 6-1-13 with canons, diameter 29 inches) to bring it into tune and the tenor (previously 17-3-19 with canons, diameter 46 inches) because it had been dropped and cracked in transit on its return from the foundry. The canons were also removed from the middle six bells, the two new ones having been cast without. All were rehung on ball bearings by John Taylor & Co. in 1961, paid for by Barwick and Enid Browne in memory of their son Christopher (1924-1947).

The first clock was probably installed in 1756, and it chimed the hymn tune "Hanover" ("Ye Servants of God") every three hours of daylight until 1897, albeit with one note a semitone out. When John Taylor & Co. rehung the bells in 1902 they quoted for casting a new bell to "allow the hymn tune Hanover to be played as the current 2nd was out of tune (D sharp) - needs to be D natural - need not be hung for ringing", including fitting chiming hammers to the new frame, but the chime was abandoned. It is perhaps interesting to note that in their quote, Taylors referred to the second bell as being tuned to D#, which would have meant the entire ring was tuned a semitone lower than it currently is, as it was in fact previously believed to be.

There are beams for a substantial platform in the Ringing Room directly behind the clock dial on the west wall of the tower, so it is likely that the original clock was here with the tune chiming barrel in the present Clock Chamber above. The present clock was built by Smith of Derby in 1902, although the Cambridge quarter chimes and hourly strike on the tenor weren't added until 1961. A flatbed movement, it was overhauled and fitted with Huygens automatic winding on all three trains in 1971, the gift of Lady Durand in memory of Sir Alan Durand.

The bells of St Mary the Virgin, Wotton-under-Edge
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
16-2-07 29¼ inF John Taylor & Co. 1902
26-0-12 30½ inE Abel Rudhall 1756
36-3-00 32½ inD Abel Rudhall 1756
47-1-15 34 inC Abel Rudhall 1756
58-3-24 37 inBb Abel Rudhall 1756
69-1-03 38 inA Abel Rudhall 1756
712-2-02 41½ inG Abel Rudhall 1756
818-2-00 46½ inF John Taylor & Co. 1902

Source: "Church Bells of Gloucestershire" (Mary Bliss & Frederick Sharpe, 1986) and Dove's Guide. Diameters of the 1756 treble and tenor from "The Church Bells of Gloucestershire" (Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 1881). Clock inspected personally 3rd June 2006. Further information from the St Mary's Church website.


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.