The very active band of ringers here, led by Roy and Ann Le Marechal, have become famous during 1991 for their variety of fund raising activities and many Guild members have participated in at least 1 such event. A large sum is required to recast this famous Llewellin and James sound, and augment from 8 to 10, with essential work first completed upon the frame foundations. The purchase of the Gosport octave from St Mary, Portchester, has terminated the hopes of the latter that this church might contain more than 3 ringable bells but will certainly help towards the cost of the well planned project at Bishopstoke.
Inspection by staff from Whitechapel Bell Foundry confirmed the findings from previous inspections that major work could no longer be delayed upon this ring of 12. At present work is under way to rehang bells numbers 5 to 12. Probably the most difficult part of this work is the carrying of heavy parts of the fittings down, then up, the long flights of stairs which have been trodden by many of us.
Few rings of 3 receive much attention in our Guild area, and it was a great pleasure to learn that the 3 chiming bells at this church would be hung for full circle ringing, although, in spite of encouragement from Philip and Eileen Gorrod, and of Graham Grant who is church organist, Whitechapel was not prepared to squeeze any more bells into this tiny turret. The dedication, on Sunday 30th June, during matins, gave many of us the opportunity to ring in our latest Guild 3 bell tower, and to meet those who are being trained here as future ringers for the rehung bells at Winchester Cathedral.
It has long been known that the effect of damp sea air has a deleterious effect upon the metallic parts of bell fittings in our various towers adjacent to the sea. In 1985, Freshwater reported the appearance of a small hole in the steel framework, which is tightly packed into the narrow tower. Closer inspection in 1991 revealed that corrosion had spread to such a dangerous level that it was necessary to cancel all further ringing. Peter Smith and his ringers are now actively fund raising, and have arranged for a local I.O.W. firm to replace all the dangerous framework.
Following the success with the rehanging of these 5 bells by Arthur Fidler in 1988, when the church was utilized during the filming of an Agatha Christie TV series, the recent activity here by Life Member Fred Mouland and the Waller family has led to very successful fund raising for the augmentation to 6 bells.
The ring of 6 at this church of unknown dedication has long been well known for the strange noise emanating from bell number 2. White's of Appleton have convinced the PCC that rehanging is essential, together with the removal of the dangerous cast-in, wrought iron crown staples, but, due to the intervention of Hampshire County Council and English Heritage, recasting will not take place, nor can the wooden frame be updated. Work must be performed upon the frame foundation, and it is then hoped that another silent ring of 6 will be manned by a team of local recruits.
For many years, entry to this ringing chamber was via an external rickety wooden ladder, with missing rungs. The ringing chamber door, high up in the external wall of the tower, opened directly on to the top rung and luckily, no one has yet fallen through this to their death 30 feet below. In spite of efforts by Michael and Lucy Church, recruitment has been impossible, and occasional ringing could only take place with a visiting, experienced band with a good head for heights. Dealing with many limitations imposed by English Heritage, the work of a local builder has resulted in the replacement of the above by a beautifully constructed internal wooden staircase and balcony, dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Winchester in September. Another silent 6 now has learners once again.
At the time of writing, structural work is in progress upon the tower of this famous building. The 13 bells have been lowered from their frame. Repairs will soon be performed upon the 1734 wooden frame and the wooden floor. Meanwhile, the Cathedral band are helping with Sunday ringing of bells in surrounding villages, and are well under way with fund raising for the extra bells.
It might well have been my sad duty this year to inform the Guild of the only loss of a Guild peal of bells during my time as Guild Secretary. A ring of 6 might have been lost to us following the decision of the PCC to apply for redundancy. I have been kept informed of the details, thanks to good contacts with the Assistant Diocesan Secretary, who has recently become a ringing member of our Guild. This situation probably reminds us that we have no real power in such matters, that we act only in an advisory capacity, and that good relations between ringers and PCC are VITAL. Due to considerable efforts by the 1991 Basingstoke District Secretary, this particular PCC withdrew its application earlier this year.
At the other end of the scale, sterling efforts by our Guild Master this year will probably see the re-opening, in 1992, of one of our peals of bells currently classified as "Silent" in our Guild Report.