an irreverent look at Writtle Village, Essex, its people and goings on!
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This site has been updated on December 2006

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All Saints, Writtle
The History of the Bells

  The first reference to eight bells at Writtle appear in the Churchwarden’s Accounts of 1758. In 1787, Robert Patrick of Woodford furnished an estimate for recasting the bells but before he could do so the Tower collapsed in 1800 destroying the ring of eight bells. The Tower was rebuilt in 1802, but Thomas Mears of Whitechapel did not install the new bellframe and ring of eight bells until 1811.

The old eight bells were always difficult to ring and this difficulty had worsened in recent years due to the increasing flexibility of the old wooden frame and wear and tear of the fixtures and fittings. To overcome this difficulty, the ringers proposed replacing the old frame with a new metal one located slightly lower in the tower. At the same time augment the bells to ten.

At the Belfry AGM on 21 January 2000, members unanimously agreed to the proposal and a sub-committee was formed to take the work forward. In March 2000, the PCC approved the proposal in principle and meetings were held with the Honorary Diocesan Technical Adviser, structural engineers, and the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and formal estimates for the work were commissioned.

The PCC met on 21 September 2000. On the agenda was a feasibility report, prepared by the bellringers, summarising the findings of the technical experts, discussing the quotations and making a number of recommendations. The report was approved. We now had permission to progress the augmentation project and to start fundraising. An Appeal Committee was formed.

At the PCC meeting on 29 November 2000, an amendment to the feasibility report was presented for twelve bells in a thirteen-bell frame, rather than the ten agreed at the September meeting. The argument in favour of twelve bells was that to add two smaller semi-tone bells would provide a light eight in a true diatonic scale that would greatly help in teaching eight bell methods and in teaching learners.

The Writtle All Saints Bell Appeal was formally launched on 4 March 2001, with a target of £130,000. The launch was a tremendous success. In the few weeks leading up to the launch sponsors for five bells were pledged and another was received on the day. Over 170 people attended and viewed an exhibition, a demonstration of method ringing on handbells and listened to a presentation by Tower Captain, Phil Stephens. On the day we received donations of a further £2,400.

By April 2001, pledges to sponsor seven of the twelve bells had been received. This, together with some other very generous donations, brought the total raised to just over £40,000.

Fundraising continued, the main aim being to keep the project in the minds of the community and to appeal to a diverse audience as possible. Events included two Teddy Bear Parachuting days and a Teddy Bear Aerial Runway, a Balloon Race, Tower Tours, three Barn Dances, a Coffee Morning, three Quiz Nights, a Handbell Concert, a concert by the Essex Police Band and a nationally advertised Open Day of all 31 Towers in the South East District of the Essex Association.

Immediately after the first Quiz Night in September 2001, two further donors came forward to sponsor the 8th and 9th bells!

Immediately after the first Quiz Night in September 2001, two further donors came forward to sponsor the 8th and 9th bells!

Change Ringers, which was founded at Writtle in June 1879, agreed to grant us £12,800 for the 10th bell in its 125th anniversary year. Later that month the Diocesan Advisory Committee met and approved the first stage of the Faculty application.

Fundraising continued throughout 2002. Protracted negotiations began with English Heritage. In June the Appeal passed the magic £100,000. On 29 November 2002, we were delighted hear that our application for a grant from the Chelmsford Borough Council Jubilee Community Fund had been successful and that we had been awarded £21,000 for the new tenor bell. That news meant that we had achieved our target of £130,000. However we now needed to raise an additional £10,000 to cover the cost of lifting and securing the old bellframe under the tower roof in order to meet the concerns raised by English Heritage.

It was not until November 2003 that we received the really good news that the final stage of the Faculty had been signed. This meant that the order for the new bells could at last be placed with Taylor's of

Loughborough. A milestone in the life of All Saints, Writtle!

Suddenly after a period of relative inactivity it was all go! Site meetings took place with the Church Architect, Planning Supervisor and Eayre & Smith; method statements and health and safety statements were drawn up; confirmation was received that there were no bats in the belfry! The old installation was faithfully recorded for posterity; the clock was temporarily removed and staged payments agreed and cashflows drawn up.

A salvage company was contacted about disposal of the old wood and steel supporting beams and specifications for new steel ladders to access the tower were drawn up. Protective and safety clothing was ordered, and a pallet truck and scaffold boards were acquired.

Work began in earnest on 2 January 2004, the day after the 160th and last peal on the old bells, when the bells and fittings were removed. They were delivered to Whitechapel Bell Foundry later that month for onward delivery to Seattle. The old bellframe was lifted up to the tower roof by the end of January. During February the old belfry floor and wood and steel supporting beams and staircases were removed. Pockets were cut into the walls for the new bellframe. In March the new metal frame was delivered and installed and during April the lengthy process of grouting the frame in place was completed.

Meanwhile the new inscriptions were agreed and a schedule of castings received from Taylor's. For the castings of two bells or more coach trips were arranged for donors and parishioners. In all over 100 people travelled to Loughborough to witness the momentous occasions throughout January, February and March.

On 14 May, the sun shone and local school children turned out as the new bells were delivered and placed in the Church. On 16 May, a Hallowing Service took place, a truly memorable and moving event for all that attended. The following day saw the first five bells installed in the tower. By 19 May all were installed together with their fittings. The new access ladders and belfry floor were also installed.

Stephen Colley from Eayre & Smith expertly commissioned the bells and a test ring took place on the evening of 27 May. The scene was therefore set for the Dedication and Thanksgiving Service on Saturday 5 June. For those interested in statistics, 24 pockets were cut in the tower walls and filled; 20 bags of cement and 3½ tons of ballast were used and since the 2 January the work has involved over 1,500 man hours and the consumption of about 1,000 cups of tea!

The new bells are heavier, providing a richer more mellow tone. The note of the tenor (the heaviest) is D and it weighs 31½ cwt. The twelve bells provide us with several combinations that may be rung together, the main two being a ring of ten in the key of D major and a lighter ring of eight in the key of A major. The project will reward Writtle with bells that are much easier to control, easier to learn on and a ring of bells that will provide a gloriously rich sound on a par with the best in the country.

The people of Writtle were very involved in this project right from the start. They have helped with and taken part in a variety of fund raising events, they have donated money, and individuals and families within the village have sponsored nine of the bells.


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