Mr. Blackbourn, of Salisbury, has recently rehung the bells at Stony Stratford and Olney, Bucks; and he has also on hand the bells at Aston (Herts), St. Mary’s, Woolwich, Hawley (Hants), Blakesley (Northants), and other places.
The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, November 4, 1893, page 303
Mr. Thomas Blackbourn, Church Bell Hanger of Salisbury, Wilts., is engaged rehanging the three heaviest bells, with new fittings, at this place. They are supposed to be the heaviest bells in the diocese of Salisbury, and according to measurement they would be so.
The Bell News and Ringers’ Record, December 22, 1894, page 371
On Tuesday, November 24, 1896, in Two Hours and Fifty-six Minutes,
|At the Church of St. Mewbred,|
|A PEAL OF GRANDSIRE TRIPLES, 5040 CHANGES;|
|Rev. G. M. Clarkson||Treble.||E. Taylor||5.|
|A. Goddard||2.||H. Myers||6.|
|E. Manning||3.||T. Blackbourn||7.|
|T. Groves||4.||Rev. A. Coode||Tenor.|
|Conducted by T. Blackbourn.|
|These bells going splendidly, being recently cast by Mears and Stainbank, and hung by Mr. T. Blackbourn, of Salisbury. Hitherto very few peals have been attempted in Cornwall.|
The Bell News and Ringers’ Record No. 765, Dec 5, 1896, page 423
We are glad to hear that a new peal of bells for the parish church at Hersham is about to become an accomplished fact. F. L. Vaux, Esq., a local gentleman, has made a very handsome present to the parish church, he having undertaken the entire cost of a new ring of eight bells. At a very largely attended vestry meeting on Monday, December 17th, this generous offer was most gratefully accepted, and a resolution was passed directing the requisite steps to be taken to obtain the necessary faculty for the erection of the bells. The work has been submitted to Mr Thomas Blackbourn, Bellfounder, of Salisbury, and it is hoped that the peal will be ready for Easter.
The Bell News and Ringers’ Record No. 978, Jan 5, 1901, page 421
The Bell News and Ringers’ Record No. 1132, Dec 19, 1903, page 461
A personality well known to a former generation of ringers has passed away at Luton. Mr. Thomas Blackbourn died on January 24th at the age of 73 years, after an illness of six weeks’ duration.
Born at Holbeach, Lincs, Mr. Blackbourn was for some time in business at Salisbury as a bellhanger, and carried out many bell restorations in the South and West of England, one of the jobs of which he was particularly proud being the rehanging of the heavy ring of ten at Wells Cathedral. He was a sound craftsman and a good ringer.
After leaving Salisbury he went to live at Luton in 1918, and joined the band at the Parish Church, where he became steeple-keeper and took great pride in the bells.
He was taught to ring 55 years ago by the late Mr. J. R. Jerram, of Salisbury, and had rung about 200 peals in various methods. While working in Brighton in 1892 he rang in the first handbell peal in which a lady ever rang a pair of bells, the band being Mrs. G. Williams 1-2, T. Blackbourn 3-4, G. Williams (conductor) 5-6, A. P. Goddard 7-8.
Mr. Blackbourn leaves a family of four sons and one daughter in bereavement, his wife having predeceased him in September, 1931.
The funeral took place on January 28th, the service being held in the Parish Church and conducted by the Vicar (the Rev. R. T. Howard). The interment took place in the church cemetery. The Luton band was represented by Messrs. A. King, L. A. Goodenough, H. Walker, F. Walker, A. Smith and E. Shane, and a wreath in the shape of a bell was sent. Mr. Blackbourn will be much missed in Luton tower, where his cheery face and genial manner endeared him to all.
The Ringing World No. 1143, February 17th, 1933, page 106
THOMAS BLACKBOURN was born at Holbeach, Lincolnshire, in the year 1860. At the age of 20 he was taught to ring by James Richard Jerram who was a bellhanger of Sutton Bridge, also in Lincolnshire. Shortly after taking up ringing, Thomas Blackbourn set up business as a bellhanger. Later, it would appear that James Jerram became his business associate and the workshops were subsequently moved to Salisbury in about 1883. The reason for this move seems somewhat obscure but from his diary of ringing, James Jerram had already moved to Salisbury during the latter months of 1882. It is evident that Jerram provided the finance and brains for the running of the business which, being situated on the site of a former Greyfriars monastery, was registered as “The Friary Works, Ltd.” Much of Blackbourn’s early work consisted of bellhanging, this he commenced by rehanging the six bells at Wilton, Wilts, in 1881.
By the year 1892 Blackbourn was in partnership with William Greenleaf who had previously been with Mears and Stainbank as a bellhanger and tuner. They described themselves as Church Bellhangers, Tuners and Handbell Founders but the association was short lived. Greenleaf left Salisbury for Hereford in 1894 where he set up a bellhanging partnership with a Mr Tristram. Church bellfounding was added to the business in 1899 when Blackbourn cast a ring of six bells for Woodford, Wilts. This was to be his only complete ring of bells, his other bellfounding work consisted mainly of recasting and augmentations. He continued bellfounding and bellhanging until 1903 when at Steeple Langford, Wilts, he rehung the bells in an iron frame, recast the third bell and cast the present treble. The business was put into the hands of a receiver/manager in 1904. The final transaction appears to be the payment for a stock bell dated 1899 which was purchased for Britford, Wilts, on the 10 March 1904. Thomas Blackbourn left Salisbury for Luton in 1918 whereupon he spent his latter years as a bicycle repairer. He died at Luton in 1933 at the age of 73.
The accompanying photograph shows the Friary Works in 1896. The frame and bells being erected are those of South Petherton Parish Church in Somerset.
In conclusion, it would be interesting to know the identification of the gentlemen (both young and old) in the photograph. Assuming that Thomas Blackbourn is in the picture and bearing in mind that he was at the time 36 years of age, I am inclined to think he is the one standing to the extreme right of the bell frame.
The Ringing World No. 3389, April 9, 1976, page 320
by Chris Pickford
[Extracts from article about Everton, Bedfordshire]
The bill of Messrs. Blackbourn and Greenleaf of Salisbury for rehanging Everton bells in 1892. Original at County Record Office, Huntingdon (Ref 2150/18/3).
The base beams of the old wooden bellframe remain in situ beneath the new roof of the tower, and details of the frame are preserved among the Whitechapel Foundry records in an inspection report dated 1957. The frame was apparently of 17th century date and the arrangement of the pits, and perhaps even the roping positions, remained unaltered for over three centuries. On entering the bell chamber from the newel staircase in the South West corner of the tower, one would have seen the tenor swinging East to West in a pit on the South side of the tower. The other bells were hung to the North, swinging North to South in four parallel pits, and they were hung (from East to West) in the order 2, 1, 3, 4, giving an anti-clockwise rope circle.
In July 1892 Thomas Blackbourn and William Greenleaf of Salisbury were invited to report on the condition of the bells at Everton. This firm had just completed the restoration of the bells in the neighbouring village of Sandy, where they had been employed on the recommendation of the Rev. F. E. Robinson, the Master of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers. Although a long way from home, this Salisbury firm became involved in several bell restoration schemes in the East Midlands, tendering unsuccessfully in 1893 for the rehanging of the four bells at Little Barford, a village near Everton, and undertaking the rehanging of the heavy ring of six (tenor 25 cwt.) at Olney in North Buckinghamshire.
On 20th July 1892, Messrs. Blackbourn and Greenleaf sent off their estimate for putting Everton bells in good order for £65. The work was to include repairs to the frame, quarter-turning the bells, and the provision of five new sets of fittings. An appeal for funds was launched in August and the money was quickly raised by subscription. By the middle of November the job was finished and all bills had been paid. The total cost of the work including the bellhangers’ extras amounting to £4.12s. and the carpenter’s bill for a new floor and other woodwork, came to £87.18s.6d.
Two years later, in 1894, the tenor became cracked. In June a new bell cast by Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel was substituted for the old one which was taken in part exchange. The parish did not deal direct with the foundry, however, and the blame for the new bell being noticeably sharp for the ring must be laid at the door of the bellhanger, Thomas Blackbourn, who handled the whole business. By 1894 Blackbourn was working on his own, his former partner William Greenleaf having moved to Hereford to set up as a bellhanger on his own account. Blackbourn’s invoice for recasting the tenor, including taking down the old bell and hoisting the new, and for overhauling the fittings of the other bells, is dated 9th July, 1894, and his receipt for £25.10s. in full settlement of the account was signed just two days later on 11th July. The cost of the work was again met by subscription, the proceeds of a jumble sale, sale of work, and by the remaining balance of the subscriptions collected in 1892 for the rehanging of the bells.
The most striking feature of the works carried out in 1892 and 1894 is the speed with which the necessary funds were raised, reflecting not only the enthusiasm of those responsible for the restoration but also the extent of the genuine appreciation of the bells among the villagers. It is a sad comment on recent events that the only remaining monument to this endeavour is the framed notice provided by Mears and Stainbank in 1894 giving the weight and note of the recast tenor.
These were the last repairs carried out on the bells before their removal in 1974-5, but two abortive schemes merit brief consideration. Just as Blackbourn and Greenleaf had been consulted when they were working in the area in 1892, so in May 1912 came the turn of Gillett & Johnston of Croydon who were then installing the new ring of eight at Biggleswade.
Gillett and Johnston were called in to advise on the clappering of two of the bells, but with their characteristically direct business approach they proceeded to find fault with the frame, with the Blackbourn and Greenleaf fittings then barely 12 years old, and with the bells themselves. Their report of 21st May, 1912 was accompanied by estimates for retuning the bells and rehanging them with completely new fittings and frame (at a cost of £108.10s.), for providing a new metal frame and reconditioning the old fitting without tuning the bells (£79), and for fitting independent crown staples to the third and tenor bells (£11.10s.). Sound as the advice may well have been, parish parsimony prevailed and it seems that nothing was done.
As a result of renewed concern about the safety of the bells, Mears and Stainbank were called in and in July 1957 the firm supplied an estimate for a full restoration. Again nothing was done, and the condition of the belfry continued to deteriorate. Ringing meetings were occasionally held at Everton until the early 1960’s, but when a visiting band went there in May 1969 they had to fit ropes to two of the bells before they could ring. By then, the bells were regarded as “unringable”, and this may have been the last time they were rung.
In 1887 when A. J. and T. Tott visited Sandy, the Everton ringers were clearly a “stoney” band ringing only “the old 24 changes”, but having expressed a desire to learn change-ringing James Tott and his band set out first to have the bells put in good order and then to master the art. As we have seen, the bells were rehung in 1892 and on the occasion of the opening on 29th October a combined band from Everton and Sandy, assisted by the bellhanger, rang changes “very creditably”. The ringers taking part were J. Tott 1, T. Blackbourn 2, D. Leonard 3, A. Goddard 4 and A. Barnes 5. It is not entirely clear whether this was a scientific performance, but when the Everton ringers visited Sandy in February 1894 it was reported that they had “a very good practice in half-pull ringing” and by the end of the year the Sandy team was able to ring Bob Minor and Grandsire and Bob Doubles. Within a few years the Everton ringers had also mastered Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles and thereby attained their objective.
The Ringing World No. 3843/44, December 21 and 28, 1984, pages 1093 to 1095
[Extract from article]
The church of St. Martin, Salisbury, Wiltshire is very close to the site once occupied by the bellfounders and bellhangers Thomas Blackbourn and William Greenleaf, who were active from about 1884 to 1903. The two tier timber frame in which the eight at St. Martin’s hang was installed by them and remains in good condition. The eight bells have recently been retuned at Whitechapel and have been rehung in the old frame with mainly new fittings. The tenor now weighs 13-2-4 in F sharp.
The Ringing World No. 3938, October 17, 1986, page 914
[Extract from article about Aldbourne, Wiltshire]
During the closing years of the century the churchwardens’ accounts frequently refer to the bells, and payments made for their repair. In 1891 the treble bell was rehung by Thomas Blackbourn, the Salisbury founder. Clearly something had to be done, for by the early years of the present century the bells were no longer considered safe to ring.
The Ringing World No. 4185, July 12, 1991, page 667
[Extract from letter about Lytchett Minster, Dorset]
1994 will see the long-awaited restoration of the bells of Lytchett Minster.
The bells had been largely silent for many years and the “go” was somewhat rough, when a new band was formed in 1977. Although the bells did improve with regular use, maintenance and DIY improvements, it soon became clear that the 1903 installation by the Salisbury bellfounder, Thomas Blackboura, was in need of major restoration and overhaul. The oak grillage beams, supporting the cast iron framesides, have been attacked by rot over a long period of time, particularly in the SW corner of the tower. This, plus 90 years of wear and tear on the fittings generally, means that both extensive and costly work of around £32,000 is needed. Like most parishes, Lytchett has had other more pressing financial projects in the 1980s, but during this time the ringers have raised over £21,000 “unofficially”. The parish is now finishing off the project and preparatory building work will start shortly, prior to the removal of the bells and frame in mid March. The PCC have entrusted the bellhanging work to Nicholson Engineering of Bridport and the bells will be retuned at Whitechapel. Hopefully, all work will be finished by the early summer.
The Ringing World No. 4322, February 25, 1994, page 196
[Extract from article about Winsham, Somerset]
The peal at Winsham on 30th December was of interest as it was the 100th anniversary of the rehanging of the bells in 1894. They were rehung by Thos. Blackbourn of Salisbury and were opened in the “grand manner” of the times with three peals. The first of Grandsire Triples rung on 1st December 1894 was notable for its slow speed - 3 hrs. 27 mins. for a tenor of 13-2-11. The second on 2nd December was Stedman Triples in 3 hrs. 3 mins. and the third on 3rd December Double Norwich Court Bob Major in 3 hrs. 8 mins. In the latter peal as well as Thos. Blackbourn there were great names of the day such as Rev. G. F. Coleridge and Rev. F. E. Robinson and the peal was composed and conducted by James W. Washbrook. Today the bells form an interesting challenge to peal bands. There is a long draught with no rope guides in the ringing area under the central tower. Choir stalls have to be moved to make a ringing space.
The Ringing World No. 4373, February 17, 1995, page 161
[Extract from article about Upper Cam, Gloucestershire]
The restored ring of six bells at St. George, Upper Cam. near Dursley in Gloucestershire, were rededicated during the Parish Eucharist on Sunday, January 15th, by Ven. Christopher Wagstaff, Archdeacon of Gloucester.
The “go” of the bells had been deteriorating over the years, and a scheme to restore the tower roof offered a golden opportunity to rehang the bells. The decision to go ahead was taken in 1993, and work began in September 1994.
John Taylor & Co. were entrusted with the work, to include retuning of the Rudhall back five of 1709/10, and new ringing gear. The poor-toned treble, added in 1901 by Thomas Blackbourn of Salisbury, was to be replaced with a new bell, and hung dead as a service bell.
The work was completed in December, 1994, and the bells were tried out on Thursday, December 15th. Details of the bells are as follows:
JOHN TAYLOR BELLFOUNDERS 19|
[Taylor foundry mark]94
THIS BELL WAS ADDED
AS PART OF
THE “DRAGON APPEAL”
[other side] [Dragon logo]
|ABR RVDHALL CAST VS ALL 1710|
|3rd||34.25 in.||7-0-12||B flat|
PROSPERITY TO OUR BENEFACTORS & RINGERS|
ABRA RVDHALL BELLFOUNDER 1710|
PEACE & GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD
|LET VS RING FOR PEACE A:R [bell] 1710|
COLONEL HOPTON BENEFACTOR|
EDWARD TURNER MINISTER AR [bell] 1710
|Service bell||31.25 in.||6-0-6||D|
|T. BLACKBOURN SALISBURY, FOUNDER|
E. T. GRIFFITHS, VICAR OF CAM, 1901.
|1899||Britford, Wilts 1/6|
Berkeley, Glos 3/10, 4/10
Edington, Wilts former 2/6
Down Ampney, Glos 4/5
Greinton, Somerset 1/5, 2/5
Woodford, Wilts - ring of six
|1901||Cam, Glos 1/6|
|1902||Corsham, Wilts 5/6|
|1903||Steeple Langford, Wilts 2/5, 3/5|
The heaviest of these is likely to have been the fifth of the 23.5 cwt six at Corsham.
There are a number of excellent cast iron bell frames installed by Blackbourn. They were designed by Jerram who, in writing about the Wells Cathedral frame, expressed great regret at the decision to augment the bells to ten, as he could not get all ten on one level and the treble had to be hung above the others. Other good examples of iron frames installed by Blackbourn are to be found at Chew Magna, Greinton, Shepton Beauchamp, South Petherton and Winsham, all in Somerset, and Cam in Gloucestershire. The Shepton Beauchamp frame was installed in 1905, which indicates that the business continued a little longer than stated by George Elphick.
GEORGE W. MASSEY
The Ringing World No. 4643, April 21, 2000, page 395
Colin Lewis’s letter (31st March) about his discovery of a bell in Grahamstown, South Africa, by Thomas Blackbourn (no “e”) of Salisbury interested me greatly. I expect that Neil Skelton, who lives in Salisbury and wrote the article about Blackbourn published in The Ringing World on 9th April 1976 will be replying. My only purpose in writing is to add a few asides.
Thomas Blackbourn (1860-1933) came from Lincolnshire. It has been claimed (possibly by Thomas himself) that his father, Joseph Blackbourn, was the station-master at the once substantial junction station at Bourne. However, I found in a contemporary trade directory that the station in question was actually at an obscure place called Twenty, on the long-closed M. & G. N. line between Bourne and Spalding.
Be that as it may, Blackbourn Junior made such a success of the bellhanging firm which he started with the help of another Lincolnshire man, James Jerram - who had also taught him to ring - that in 1899 he added bellfounding to the business. This was evidently not a financial success and led to the whole business being put on the market in December 1903 and wound up and sold in April 1904.
It seems, from a contemporary note made by the Wiltshire ringer and bell archaeologist William Gifford, who knew him well, that Blackbourn’s bells were actually cast by one James Oliver, whom I think had previously worked at Whitechapel. No very large bells were produced, much the heaviest I think being the 18cwt fifth at Corsham, Wilts., and the next heaviest the (awful-sounding) 14 cwt tenor at Stour Provost, Dorset. But one complete ring of six survives at Woodford, Wilts, and one ring of eight at Hersham, Surrey. Another ring of eight at Farnworth-with-Kearsley, Lanes, was replaced by the present fine ring in 1954.
Despite the sale of his business in 1904, Blackbourn went on to rehang bells at Shepton Beauchamp, Somerset and Sparsholt, Hants, and his last bell was cast in 1905 and hangs at Winterborne Stickland, Dorset.
The Ringing World No. 4645, May 5, 2000, page 462
For the second time of writing!
The reply by George Massey is very good but I did answer a most important question in my letter which you so kindly ignored (I can see we are going to get on fine). I gave you the address of a descendant of T.B. who is one of our own Brother Ringers. I also told you that we here at Farnworth, Bolton, St John have a 12½ cwt ring of eight by T.B. dated 1899, recast in 1954 by Taylor.
I personally thought they were of good tone. As far as I know Farnworth and Hersham were the only complete rings Blackbourne cast. Please print my original letter to you. I do object to being ignored and a letter of refusal to print would have sufficed.
Ed. - Most interesting Joe. For whatever reason, I do not seem to have your first letter. You gave no telephone number in your second letter, so I could not call you …
The Ringing World No. 4646, May 12, 2000, page 487
[Extract from article]
The five bells and their bellframe were removed from the tower in January 2001. A new bellframe for six bells has been installed and the bells have been augmented by adding an extra treble, which was provided by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Bells nos. 4 & 6 have been retuned in Eayre & Smith’s works.
The Ringing World No. 4711, August 10, 2001, page 812
[Extract from article about Winterborne Stickland, Dorset]
The Church of St Mary the Virgin at Winterborne Stickland is endowed with four bells. The tenor, founded in 1626 by John Dawton and Richard Tuck weighs 7 cwt. The third, from 1622 is by John Wallis at 5¾ cwt, whilst the second, at 4½ cwt is by Thomas Blackbourn, cast in 1905, presumably as it had become cracked. The treble weighing in at 4cwt, was made in 1670 by Robert Austen at Compton Dundon. It is this bell that is special. Nicholson’s report that the three larger bells were rehung by Thomas Blackbourn in 1905, using all new ringing fittings. However, the treble was left with its substantially earlier half wheel. It seems that it was never fitted for full circle ringing, and hence why history was made when for the first time in 333 years, at 7.15 pm on 5th December 2003, the treble was swung full circle, being stood inverted ready to join in the ring with its colleagues.
The Ringing World No. 4834/35, December 19/26, 2003, page 1247