A FIFTY-TWO YEAR ADVENTURE
Well, Friday 10 July 2020 was a slightly special day for me. I finally managed to get up to see the bell in the turret of St.Francis of Assisi’s Roman Catholic Church at Baddesley Clinton - a 2 cwt Mears bell of 1870. The bell is of no real interest, but seeing it - ‘the last bell in Warwickshire’ - means that I have finally completed a survey I first began in 1968.
I learned to ring at boarding school at Worcester in 1966. My teacher, Paul Cattermole, introduced me to the historical interest of bells right from the start. He taught me a lot and I owe a great deal to his early encouragement. He took a group of us to visit a number of belfries around Worcester and as a school works gang we did maintenance and repairs to the bells at St.Swithun’s, Spetchley and White Ladies Aston - all with interesting historic bells.
It was in the Easter school holidays in 1968 that I decided to start exploring local belfries at home in Warwickshire. On calling at Great Alne Rectory to ask if I could look at the bell there, I met Christopher Wain (the Rector’s son) who took me to the church and helped me get up to see the bell. He became a good friend and even learned to ring. We subsequently cycled round a number of local churches together and that was when I started to collect material for a revision of The Church Bells of Warwickshire. Over the years this has grown into a full and detailed survey of ALL the bells in the County - not just church bells, but also bells in the churches of other denominations, public buildings, country houses and (a surprising range) “other locations”.
Suffice it to say, no book has yet appeared. I had a draft almost ready for publication in the later 1970s but nobody was willing to publish it - or help to meet the costs. That was a disappointment but I didn’t give up. Although not living in the area I have always continued to collect information and keep the survey records up to date, but lack of time has prevented me from writing it up fully. Realising that the information was of interest to some ringers I handed my original draft over the Mike Chester a while back and he has made the core details available - supplemented with material of his own - on the internet.
I still hope at some stage to assemble all my Warwickshire stuff for publication. It’s been a huge labour of love over the years and while it will never be a book of general interest it would be greatly valued by a handful of enthusiasts and of considerable interest to people with associations with individual places and towers. My similar study for Bedfordshire is nearing completion for short-run publication in the near future. All being well, Warwickshire (and Worcestershire) will follow later on although there’s still a huge amount of work to do to get it all in a suitable form.
Of course, the ‘last bell in Warwickshire’ is a moving target. There will still be some I don’t yet know about. There will be others that I need to revisit for reappraisal or where changes have taken place. There are some which - although I have fully adequate details - I haven’t actually seen and touched at close quarters.
I think I can genuinely say, though, that the little bell at Baddesley Clinton is the last for which I knew a visit was necessary in order to document it properly. Thus a mission begun at Great Alne on 27 March 1968 ended on 10 July 2020.
Of course, if anyone knows of any bells that I might not know of - or who sees scaffolding on a turret that is normally beyond reach - please do get in touch. I’m always glad to follow up leads - or to have a chance to re-examine bells I’ve already seen. Contact me on 07811-453525 or via .
Chris (with lockdown hair and beard!) inspecting the turret bell at St.Francis of Assisi’s Catholic church at Baddesley Clinton - 10 July 2020