THE Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Cheriton, Hants, stands on a little hill in the churchyard. The elevation is unusual as the surrounding ground is rather flat, but from this position the church stands above the neighbouring houses and overlooks the village green.
There has been a church here since the 12th century, and parts of that building are still to be seen in the present church, which was rebuilt after the fire of 1744. The present chancel remains from the old church and the nave and tower were rebuilt after the fire. The tower is a square, brick-built structure not much higher than the nave roof. At present it houses a ring of six bells and a clock.
The bells were recast in 1888 by John Warner and Son, of Cripplegate, from an old ring of five bells, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The tenor bell has an inscription on it which was reproduced from the old tenor bell. The inscription reads: "To the church I will call and to the grave will summonce all. I. S. B. F. 1746. "
This inscription tells us that the old five bells dated from the rebuilding of the tower, or at least that particular bell did. The inscription is to be found on many tenors; there are other inscriptions which, whilst not exactly worded the same, convey the same thought. The initials I.S. are the initials of the bellfounder John Stares, who followed the Cors of Albourne, Wilts, from 1744 to 1746, and he was followed by Edward Read, and later the famous Wells family, who sent many bells to Hampshire. The initials B.F. are probably those of the donor of the bell.
When the bells were recast the old oak bell frame was retained, and in order to accommodate the extra bell the pit in which the tenor bell hung was divided in two and the two treble bells hung therein. The other bells were each moved round one place and thus they hang to-day.
On the rafters at the top of the tower is nailed a small board with the following details written on it:-
|"Ringing Grandsire on the Church Bells, 1888.|
|Robt. Crockford, sen.||Treble||Robt. Crockford, jun.||4th|
|John McKenny||2nd||William Harfield||5th|
|Ernest Shearman||3rd||James Harfield||Tenor|
|Bells opened February. "|
The above details are written in pencil and have become very faint after nearly seventy years.
These old ringers were very keen, and to-day you can see the rules of the "Cheriton Bellringers Association" in the vestry. Details are given as to the number of services each ringer must ring for each month, times of practice, winter and summer, fines for various offences such as being absent without giving notice, the fee for ringing at weddings (£1 1s.), etc. All moneys to be held by the captain and shared out at Christmas!
The old ringers were very particular about their striking and many of the older residents in the parish will tell you that the ringing was like clockwork. Within living memory a "Bonfire Night Carnival" was held in Cheriton and the church bells were rung on that occasion as well as on all the Church Festivals. Early morning ringing was the order of the day for Christmas Day and Easter Day, ringing commencing at 6 a.m. New Year's Eve had its share of ringing, and the royal birthdays were observed by "firing" the bells 21 times. This latter custom has died out at Cheriton, although to hear the bells "fired," that is all the bells striking at the same time, certainly attracts the attention of the listening public.
Although the bells were rung regularly for Sunday services and local and national occasions there has only been one full-length peal of 5,040 changes rung on the bells. On July 27th, 1938, a band of ringers, mostly from New Alresford, rang a peal of Grandsire Doubles, 5,040 changes, in 2 hours and 48 minutes, the ringers being:
|Harold H. Shaw||Treble||Alan Tremeer||4th|
|Harry Newnham||2nd||Rev. G. A. Ellison||5th|
|Leslie A. Tremeer (conductor)||3rd||W. Wearring||Tenor|
This peal nearly came to grief as towards the end the rope of the treble bell came into contact with something as it passed through its guides and started disintegrating, Luckily the treble man managed to carry on and finished the peal with only one strand of rope remaining. The Rev. G. A. Ellison was at that time chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester and is now the Bishop of Chester.
During the last 16 years the bells have been silent three times. The first time was during the war when all bells were silent. The second time was about five years ago when the fabric of the tower was being repaired, and now as the bells are being overhauled. The bell frame has to be strengthened, the wheels trued up, the clappers and clock hammers repaired, and the plain bearings replaced with ball-bearing fittings.
The work is to cost approximately £300. Of this amount about £50 has been collected so far. If these notes about the bells and ringers have interested you, would you please help us to get our bells ringing and our clock striking again? The Rector, the Rev. A. P. Skene, will be pleased to receive and acknowledge any gifts, however large or small.
The Ringing World No. 2383, November 30, 1956, pages 753 to 754
Despite the unfavourable weather, there was a good congregation of parishioners and ringers at St. Michael's Church, Cheriton, Hants, on December 15th for the rededication of the bells by the Right Rev. Bishop Lang.
The service was conducted by the Rector, the Rev. A. P. Skene, and other clergy present were the Rev. E. W. Selwyn, Rural Dean, and the Rev. C. E. C. Brinkworth, Vicar of Preston Candover.
During the singing of the hymn, "Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven," the Bishop was escorted to the tower by the Rector and churchwarden for the dedication. After the dedication the Bishop, in his address, recalled that during the last war the bells were silent and were only to be rung to give warning of the landing of enemy forces. The Bishop reminded the congregation that the bells were still used to give warning of the forces of evil.
After the service the bells were rung by the local band and the visiting ringers until 4.30 p.m., when the company adjourned to the Parish Hall for an excellent tea, which the ladies of the congregation had prepared.
After tea a vote of thanks was proposed by Mr. P. Nash to the Rector, on behalf of the visiting ringers, for allowing them to come and ring that day, and also to the ladies for the fine tea they had provided. The Rev. C. E. C. Brinkworth endorsed the vote of thanks on behalf of the Winchester District of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild.
The bells were rung during the evening to Grandsire and Stedman Doubles and Plain Bob Minor, with rounds and call changes for the less experienced.
Messrs. Mears and Stainbank are to be congratulated on the very fine work which they have done and the excellent "go" of the bells.
The Ringing World No. 2390, January 18, 1957, page 42