We take the following account of these bells from a pamphlet, entitled - Remarks on the Architecture of the Priory Church, Christchurch, Hants, kindly forwarded by a correspondent:-
The Bells, in a fine and lofty west tower, are eight in number, two of them, the fifth and sixth, of much interest from their beautiful casting and considerable antiquity, which probably exceeds that of the tower itself.
The inscriptions are as follows:-
Treble- “The gift of Sr Thos. Robinson Knt and the Honble Ino Mordaunt Esqr. A.R. 1755.” Incised just below the date- “ Thos. Mews, Gent. Mayor.”
2- Exactly the same as the treble.
3- “Thos Rudall Gloucester Founder 1776.”
4- “I. pre. sequar. an. no. do. mi. ni. 1663. W.P.”
5- “+ Sit nobis omen Touzeuns cum sit tibi nomen. Virtus campane faciat nos vivere sane.”
6- “+ Mox Augustinus necdum resonat preco magnus. Assis festinus pestes pius ut fugat agnus.”
7 and 8- “Saml Roy and Hen. Oake Gentm Churchwardens. Edwd Bowen Vicar. A.R. 1730.”
The initials “A.R.,” on four of the bells, stand for Abraham Rudhall, of Gloucester who were bell-founders there for many generations.
The third bell is cracked, and has been mended with three iron bands bolted down upon leather.
The inscription on the fourth means “Go before; I will follow.” On each side of the initials (probably those of the founder) is the device of a bell, and next to it something like a tree.
The fifth and sixth appear to be of the same date and workmanship. The meaning of both the inscriptions is obscure, and has been rather variously interpreted. I think that on five may be translated- “As your name is All Saints’ (tous saints), may that prove an omen to us; may the virtue of the bell cause us to live soberly.”
In favour of this interpretation it may be remarked that the French tous is spelt tuz in a Norman-French inscription on the ancient map in Hereford cathedral; but on the other hand, the “omen” which is to make men live “sane” suggests that “Touzeunes” was intended for tutsan “all-heal,” which is still the name of one of our wild plants. A bell might be so called from its supposed efficacy in driving off storms, demons, and pestilence.
The sixth bell calls on the patron-saint of the Augustinian canons to bring speedy aid. It is to be feared that the jingle of the rhyme was more cared for than exact grammatical meaning. Perhaps the sense intended was this: “Augustin (will be heard) soon, for not as yet does the great preacher give tone. May you come speedily to our aid when the kindly lamb of God is driving away pests.” Perhaps this bell was rung both for the sermon and the consecration at the Mass. The allusion in pestes fugat is explained by the ancient (Gnostic) notion, which is still perpetuated by the ringing of a hand-bell at the Mass, that the sound of a bell exorcised the evil spirits which had possession of material things, and therefore of the elements before consecration.
The letters of these two very curious inscriptions are beautifully clear and sharp, of the form commonly knows as “Langobardic.”
The Bell News No. 66, July 7, 1883, page 164
On Saturday evening, August 23rd, a party of ringers from Bournemouth visited this grand old priory church, and attempted to ring the heavy peal of eight bells, but everything was in such bad order that it was found almost impossible to keep them up in rounds. One six-score was rung through very indifferently on the front five, with 6-7-8 covering, there being two men to the seventh, and two to the tenor. The ringers present were Messrs. Grist, Staden, Romsey, Jerram, Clements, Belbin, Vivash, Garrett, Coulbourn, Merritt, Green, and several others.
The Bell News No. 126, August 30, 1884, page 261
This fine ring of eight bells has been recently rehung by Messrs. Taylor, of Loughborough, the third bell being recast. On Thursday last, November 12th, a select party of ringers made their way to Christchurch to take part in the ceremony of opening these splendid bells. They arrived early, and were met at the station by some of the local band, and went at once to the tower and inspected the bells and frame, which is very substantial, and finished in good style. The bells were raised, and a few touches struck, and the go of the bells was pronounced to be highly satisfactory, but the ringing-chamber is very noisy, though there is a second floor under the bells, a defect which a good layer of sawdust would soon remedy. The ringers adjourned to the coffee tavern for dinner, and having been joined by their brother-strings from Bournemouth, the belfry was again visited and a few rounds were rung before the dedication service, which took place at 3.15. This service was very fully attended by numbers of people from the neighbourhood, and from Bournemouth. The hymn commencing with “Now again our bells are raised,” was sung, and at the conclusion of the service the Countess of Malmesbury formally opened the bells by striking a few blows by means of a string attached to one of the chiming hammers, and reaching to the floor of the church. At 4 o’clock, the band started to ring a bob-and-single peal, but after ringing in good style for twenty minutes, a mischievous boy got meddling with the string mentioned above, and brought the chiming hammer into collision with the tenor bell, causing it to drop, and the conductor was obliged to call stand. After ten minutes delay, the men started again for half a peal, but after ringing 1 hr. 15 mins., the 5th was found to have shifted course, and so the attempt had to be abandoned. However the striking up to this point was very good, and everyone seemed delighted with the working and the musical tone of the bells. It is intended some day to increase the ring to ten, and when this is done, the Christchurch bells will be one of the finest rings in the south of England. G. H. Barnett, 1; C. Privett, 2; J. Hewett, 3; J. Staples, 4; G. Grafham, 5; F. Hill (conductor), 6; J. Whiting, 7; J. Weaver, 8. Tenor 32 cwt.
The Bell News No. 190, November 21, 1885, page 266
FOUR NEW BELLS ADDED TO GRAND OLD EIGHT.
Four new bells at Christchurch Priory Church, Hants, have raised the ring at this historic building to a peal of twelve - the second in the county of Hampshire and the forty-seventh in the British Isles. Christchurch had a peal of ten, but the trebles were no match for the glorious back eight, and thanks to the generosity of local donors it has been possible to dispense with the former trebles, and, by adding four entirely new bells, to provide an extended peal not only in keeping with the original octave, but worthy of the magnificent church, a building with which only Winchester Cathedral itself and Romsey Abbey in the diocese can vie. Two of the new bells have been given by members of the Druitt family and two by the Barron Bell Trust.
The work has been carried out by Messrs. Taylor and Co., of Loughborough, who have provided four bells of splendid tone which blend perfectly with the older bells, and the result is a very fine ring of twelve.
The dedication took place at a short service held on Wednesday evening last week. This was largely attended, and in the course of the service the Vicar (Canon W. H. Gay) and other clergy, members of the Church Council and choir proceeded to the ringing chamber, where Canon Gay recited the solemn words of dedication. Mr. F. Hopkins (chairman of the Barron Bell Trust), Mrs. Blair, Miss Charlotte Druitt and Mr. Herbert Druitt chimed the new bells, and then the full peal of twelve were heard for the first time.
Following the service a supper of celebration was held at the King’s Arms Hotel, at which there were present, in addition to bellringers from various parts of the diocese, many friends. In the chair was Canon W. H. Gay, supported by the Mayor of Christchurch (Alderman W. H. Tucker), the Rev. Shirley Price, Rev. C. H. Gilson, Rev. Dr. Potter, Mr. A. Troke, Mr. F. Hopkins, Mr. E. Denison Taylor (Loughborough), Mr. and Mrs. Walter Tucker, Mr. Alan Druitt (secretary of the Church Council), Miss Charlotte Druitt, Mrs. Blair, Mrs. John Druitt, Mrs. Cecil Locke, Mrs. Hopkins, Mr. David Llewellyn, Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, Mr. George Williams (Master of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild), Mr. Wilfred Andrews (captain of the Winchester Band of ringers and the representative of the Diocesan Advisory Committee). The towers represented were Bournemouth, Brockenhurst, Milford, Loughborough, Lyndhurst, Ringwood and Exeter.
PRESENTATION TO MR. G. PRESTON.
Mr. Elliott, chairman of the Christchurch District Bellringers, spoke of the pleasure all felt at the addition to their peal, and went on to introduce a matter which, he was sure, would give pleasure to all, and that was to make a presentation to Mr. George Preston. Mr. Preston had begun ringing in 1887, and over a period of 46 years had contributed distinguished service to campanology in general. He hoped to see Mr. Preston complete the round fifty; there was no reason why he should not. In detailing the merits of Mr. Preston’s career, the speaker mentioned the work done by Mr. Preston in securing bells for towers in the district, and his further efforts to see that they possessed a good ringing band, He handed to Mr. Preston a handsome eight-day Westminster chiming clock, saying it was a tribute from the ringers of the district, as a slight recognition of the splendid work he had done for bellringers generally.
Mr. George Preston expressed his great appreciation; it had come to him in the nature of a very great surprise, and for the moment words failed him. ‘I have done,’ he added, ‘what I could, but always in the nature of a labour of love, in fact, I am never happier than when I am ringing, and some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent in the Priory belfry.’
Canon Gay, in introducing Mr. Hopkins, of the Barron Bell Trust, said how much they were indebted to him. He would that he could meet the ‘opposite number’ of Mr. Hopkins, who would present an organ. ‘If,’ he begged his listeners, ‘you should hear of an “organ Mr. Hopkins,” pray let me hear of him.’ He also added his quota of praise to Mr. Preston.
Mr. F. Hopkins said that he was delighted to have been the means of helping to increase the bells. Christchurch possessed a beautiful tower and a beautiful edifice a cathedral in appearance, which was worthy of the finest peal of bells they could put into its belfry. The geographical position was fine, and the hills made a natural sounding board. He had a brother who was a sea-going man, and now he would be able to say when he heard the bells at sea, ‘Ah, there are the Priory bells ringing out from Christchurch, and somewhere in the town old Fred is “having one”’ (laughter).
He told briefly the conception and work of the Barron Bell Trust, and congratulated the Loughborough Bell Foundry on their work.
Mr. Alan Druitt, speaking on behalf of his sister, Mrs. Blair, said it gave her great pleasure to be able to participate in the increase of the Christchurch peal. He endorsed what others had said of Mr. George Preston, for ‘he has such a love and affection for the old belfry as few had shown.’
Mr. Denison Taylor, of the Loughborough Bell Foundry, said he hoped the work his firm had done was worthy of the town and its traditions. There were previously 46 towers in the British Isles with a peal of twelve. Christchurch made the 47th.
His Worship the Mayor expressed the very real pleasure it afforded him to know that during his tenure of office a full peal now embellished the tower. On behalf of the town he thanked the members of the Druitt family and the Barron Trust most heartily for their gifts. He added his thanks also to Mr. Preston and his ringers for the work they had done.
The Rev. Shirley Price commented that in listening to the peal he had heard a new note definitely, and he trusted that during his stay in the town he himself would be able to strike a similar new note of use and worth.- Mr. Walter Tucker added his word of praise, and the various ringers spoke of the excellence of the bells.
DIOCESAN GUILD’S MEETING.
On Saturday the annual general meeting of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild was held at Christchurch, when nearly a hundred members and visiting ringers enjoyed ringing on the new peal of bells.
The Master (Mr. George Williams) presided over the meeting, at which, among other business, it was decided to elect the full quota of Central Council representatives to which the Guild was entitled, and Mr. F. W. Rogers (general hon. secretary) and Mr. G. Pullinger (former hon. secretary) were elected, in addition to the Master and Mr. H. Barton. The other officers were re-elected.
The question of the transfer of five towers from the Portsmouth district to the Alton district was adjourned to a special general meeting to be held after the views of the Bishop of Portsmouth have been ascertained.
Five guineas was voted to the Davies Memorial Fund.
Service and tea followed the meeting.
A fuller report of the proceedings will appear in our next issue.
On Sunday the first quarter-peal on the twelve bells was rung by a representative band. This was 1,320 Grandsire Cinques by G. Preston (secretary of Christchurch District) conductor, 1, J. W. Faithfull (Southampton District) 2, J. S. Goldsmith (hon. sec., Guildford Diocesan Guild) 3, Mrs. R. Richardson (hon. sec., Lincoln Branch of Ladies’ Guild) 4, F. W. Rogers (hon. sec., Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild) 5, H. Barton (Central Council representative) 6, F. Sparshott (Christchurch District representative on Guild Committee) 7, R. Stone (chairman of Portsmouth District) 8, A. T. Greenwood (sec., Portsmouth District) 9, W. Fowler (Christchurch) 10, R. Richardson (Master, Lincoln Diocesan Guild) 11, H. Gillard (Christchurch) 12. It was the first actual quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques by all the band.
The Ringing World No. 1111, July 8th, 1932, page 455
Whether the Christchurch Priory (Dorset - formerly Hampshire) ringers having ever possessed a ringers’ jug is not known, but there are many colourful legends about the ringers of the “bad old days” and their liking for a pint or two of English Ale. Significantly there was an Inn a few yards away from the church - the “Old Eight Bells” in Church Street, which is now a gift shop.
However, in 1976 the Priory ringers were presented with a fine new Ringers’ Jug made by one of their younger ringers, Barbara Payne. She came from Cumnor in Oxfordshire to Christchurch in 1973 to study pottery at Bournemouth Art College.
She had had one or two lessons in bell handling at Cumnor before coming to the Priory where she is now able to ring standard methods and some Surprise Minor and Major (and even Stedman Cinques we believe.- Ed.).
At College she decided on the subject of Ringers’ Jugs for her thesis and her research led to the idea of making a jug for Christchurch. The new jug is made of traditional red earthenware clay with 12 small bells in relief around the shoulder and a 13th bell above the inscription, which reads “THE PRIORY CHURCH. CHRISTCHURCH. 1976”. It made its first appearance at the ringers’ annual dinner in January 1977 when the churchwardens duly filled it with “Ale for ye Ringers” which cost them a good deal more than the “iiij d.” as in the old days!
The Ringing World No. 3438, March 18, 1977, page 222