Bell Ringers Striking Competition Success

On Saturday 10th June 2023, St Andrew’s bell ringers entered a team into the SW Essex Striking Competition heats at Dagenham.

We rang for about seven or eight minutes and were judged on the accuracy of our ringing.

We rang well and finished in 2nd place behind West Ham but ahead of Walthamstow, St Mary who came 3rd.

Congratulations to our band of ringers, who are shown in the photograph below.

Those taking part were (L-R in the photograph):

  1. Mark Lendon
  2. Julie Bloomfield
  3. Michelle Stephenson
  4. Ethan Musham
  5. Clive Stephenson
  6. James Riley


First Quarter Peal for James After Just One Year

Hornchurch bell ringer James Riley first expressed an interest in learning to ring in May 2022, just before the Platinum Jubilee of our late Queen.

He was directed to St Andrew’s tower and had his first introduction to bell handling on 31st May 2022.

He has attended regularly and made determined progress ever since. He now rings on Sunday mornings and was part of the team that rang for the Coronation of King Charles III.

Furthermore, on 31st May 2023, James rang his first quarter peal exactly one year since his first bell ringing lesson.

Although a bit nervous, James rang exceptionally well for 45 minutes to complete this fantastic achievement.

Well done James!

The quarter peal was a celebration of the wedding of fellow bell ringer Charles Page to Linda Hardwidge on 29th May 2023 at St Laurence Church in Upminster where James also attends.

Full details of the quarter peal are as follows:

Hornchurch, Essex

St Andrew

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

1260 Plain Bob Doubles

1 Mark E Lendon

2 John M Church

3 Philip Petchey

4 Hayden R Musham

5 Clive J Stephenson (C)

6 James P Riley

Rung to celebrate the wedding of Charles and Linda Page on 29th May.

First quarter for tenor ringer on the one year anniversary of his first bell ringing lesson.

The team of bell ringers with James far right and Charles and Linda Page in the front.

Bell Ringers’ Spring Coach Outing

On Saturday 13th May 2023, 46 bell ringers and friends set off from St Andrew’s to visit 5 different churches in Hertfordshire.

Most of the churches had eight bells, not too heavy and fairly easy to ring. This gave our young ringers, Carys, Ellen & Jamie a good opportunity to ring well whilst the more experienced ringers could ring some difficult methods without having to worry about the bells.

We visited Great Stanmore and Aldenham before our buffet lunch at Bushey Heath. After lunch, the bells improved and the ringing became more enjoyable, especially at Bushey and Langleybury.

Bushey was home to a ringer called Bertram Prewett who rang in a record peal of 9 hours at Hornchurch in 1912. He sadly lost his life in the First World War, but we were able to see many peal boards at Bushey with his name on.

Our final stop at Langleybury gave people an opportunity to walk along the canal before our evening meal at a pub with Harry Potter connections.

An enjoyable day with some good ringing, excellent food, and great company.

Ringers old and young at Bushey Heath

Angela and friends at Bushey Heath

Non-ringing friends at Stanmore

Bell Ringing for VJ Day 75

St Andrew’s bell ringers were disappointed not to be able to ring for VE Day back in May when the pandemic was still at its peak.

However, with the recent easing of restrictions, some bell ringing has resumed at Hornchurch and we were able to mark the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day on 15th August 2020, accordingly.

After observing the 2 minute silence at 11am, alternate bells were rung for 15 minutes at a time to commemorate victory over Japan at the end of World War II.

Current guidelines require bell ringing to last no more than 15 minutes with participants having to wear face coverings and keep socially distanced.

Full details of the ringing is as follows:

Hornchurch, Essex

St Andrew

Saturday, 15 August 2020 (15 mins)

Rounds and Call Changes

1. Margaret Waller

3. Paul Stanley

5. Valerie A Swain

7. Ray E Rogers

9. Clive J Stephenson (C)

Rung to mark the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day immediately following the 2 minute silence at 11am.

Followed by:

Hornchurch, Essex

St Andrew

Saturday, 15 August 2020 (15 mins)

Rounds and Call Changes

2. John W Stephenson

4. Michelle A Stephenson

6. Helen J Carter

8. Joseph Hurley

10. Gavin S Carpenter (C)

Rung to mark the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day

Hand Bells for John Stephenson’s 90th Birthday

Bell ringer John Stephenson celebrated his 90th birthday on 6th December 2020.

With current guidelines preventing tower bell ringing, his family organised some hand bell ringing at his home in Romford.

By ringing 2 bells each, Clive and Michelle Stephenson managed a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minimus, with John counting the changes.

Here are full details of the ringing and some photos of the occasion:

Romford, (99, Pettits Lane)

Sunday, 6 December 2020 in 37mins

1272 Plain Bob Minimus

1–2 Michelle A Stephenson

3–4 Clive J Stephenson (C)

Rung to celebrate the 90th birthday of John Stephenson on this day with best wishes from family and friends.

John with successful hand bell ringers
John with wife Blanche and son Clive

The Hornchurch Bell Ringers’ Jugs

Hornchurch Bell Ringers’ Jugs and The Land of The Fanns

In 2019 the bell ringers were contacted by Debbie Kirk who has been working on a project for The Land of The Fanns and she requested more information about our bell ringers’ jugs which are displayed in the tower at St Andrew’s.

The Land of The Fanns is an area spreading across East London and South West Essex. Fanns is the Saxon word for Fen meaning ‘low marshy land or low – lying district’.

It started at Langdon Hills in 1768 when Philip Morant declared it to be the ‘greatest prospect in England’. It is a landscape rich in history and hidden gems, but often overlooked.

Across The Land of The Fanns, 100 stories have been gathered to tell the history and celebrate the people and places of the area.

Debbie Kirk chose the Hornchurch Bell Ringers’ jugs as one of the 100 Stories.

This is the full story of The Hornchurch Bell Ringers’ Jugs that Debbie Has uncovered:

The Hornchurch Bell Ringers’ Jugs and The Cove Brickworks

Grey Towers Avenue was the original driveway to Grey Towers House, a mock castle built by Henry Holmes in 1876, on land given to him by his father-in-law John Wagener who owned the Langtons estate. During his lifetime, Henry Holmes was a ship-builder, bank director, magistrate, joint owner of the Hornchurch Brewery, member of the Essex County Council, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Artillery Volunteers and leader of various charitable organizations. In the main hall at Grey Towers he displayed a pair of antique beer jugs which had been made especially for the bell ringers of St Andrew’s Church.

Directly opposite Grey Towers Avenue, on the other side of the high street, there is a block of flats on the site of what was once The Red House, and behind it was a flourishing pottery, brick and tile works, established in the early 1700s by the Cove family. It was at this pottery and brickworks that the bell ringers’ jugs were made, one in 1731 and the other in 1815. The 1731 jug (left) holds 4.5 gallons, and the 1815 jug (right) holds 6.5 gallons.

The names of the bell ringers and church wardens are engraved on both jugs, and the 1815 one bears the inscription ‘Gift of Mr C. Cove’ who was the owner of the brickworks at the time. Charles Cove also owned an old iron foundry on the opposite side of the road in a location now occupied by Sainsbury’s. In 1843 this was taken over by the Wedlake and Thompson families and renamed the Union Foundry. Robert Wedlake had established the Fairkytes Foundry in Billet Lane with his brother Thomas, but he was sacked by his sister-in-law Mary Wedlake when Thomas died in 1843, and so, with his business partner Charles Thompson, he set up the Union Foundry in direct competition with Mary Wedlake just yards away from her premises.

When Charles Thompson died two years later, his wife Ann took his place at the Union foundry. In 1847 Charles Cove died and a few months later his son, also called Charles Cove, married Ann Thompson’s daughter, also called Ann Thompson. They took over the brickworks and lived at The Red House which continued to be owned by brick-makers and builders until it was demolished in 1969 to make way for the block of flats that stands on its site today.

So how did the beer jugs end up in the main hall at Grey Towers House when the Cove family had made them specifically for the St Andrew’s bell ringers? Well, the jugs needed to be filled, so the bell ringers would take them around the village on a barrow to get them filled with beer which they drank at intervals whilst ringing the church bells. The jugs were also filled with ale brewed at Hornchurch Hall which was located opposite St Andrew’s Church and occupied by the Bearblock family, who would use the jugs to offer beer to the tenants who leased their land when they came to pay their rent. The name ‘Reverend James Bearblock’ is engraved on the 1815 bell ringers’ jug because he was the church warden at that time. The jugs were also filled at the Kings Head pub located on the high street along from Hornchurch Hall and opposite the Old Hornchurch Brewery.

Henry Holmes and his brother Benjamin owned both the Kings Head pub and the brewery. One day when the publican was late paying his rent, the Holmes brothers lost their temper, and, seeing the bell ringers’ jugs waiting to be filled with beer, they seized them and took them back to Grey Towers. The jugs remained at Grey Towers until 1914, by which time both Henry and his wife had passed away and their house and its contents were put up for auction. Henry’s children bought back the jugs at the auction and presented them to the vicar of St Andrew’s Church, always to be kept there for the bell ringers, and that is where they remain today, although not on display to the public. In 1979 a third jug was added by the bell ringers themselves to celebrate the bicentennial of the six bells at St Andrew’s Church which were cast in 1779.

With reference to Charles Perfect and thanks to Gavin Carpenter of the St Andrew’s Hornchurch Guild of Change Ringers.

Story writer/provider
Debbie Kirk

Each of the stories has had a flag designed and created for them and on 30th August 2020 all 100 flags went on display at the Thames Chase Forest Centre in Upminster.

The photograph below is of the flag created for the ringers’ jugs.

Virtual Bell Ringing During ‘Lockdown’ 2020/21

With all churches closed for more than 3 months during ‘lockdown’, bell ringers have been unable to gather in their local tower to practise their art. They have, however, been able to meet virtually using a ‘meetings’ app such as ‘Zoom’ or ‘Microsoft Teams’. Many bell ringers have now combined this online meeting with a web-site that allows them to ring virtually.

St Andrew’s bell ringers have been using a virtual bell ringing web-site called ‘Ringing Room’. It was invented at the end of March by a group of bell ringers in America, partly in response to the pandemic and partly because bell ringers in America live a long way apart and needed a way to practise together.

Each tower can create their own virtual ‘Ringing Room’ and individual ringers can log on and enter their virtual tower. Each ringer is then assigned a bell rope (see screenshot below) which can be rung by touching the spacebar.

The number of bells can be varied from 4 to 12 and simple commands are possible to start and finish the ringing.

Our numbers have increased from 9 initially to 14 more recently and we have rung Rounds on 10, Plain Hunt on 5,6 & 7, Plain Bob Doubles and Grandsire Doubles. It’s a slightly different skill to ringing a church bell; no physical effort is required but the bell ringers have to listen very carefully and count their position in the sequence. This takes a while to learn and takes a lot of mental concentration.

As expected, our younger bell ringers have been quick to master the technology but some of our ‘not so young’ ringers have also benefitted from this new technology and improved their understanding of bell ringing theory considerably.

St Andrew’s Ringers meet for virtual ringing

We have also trialled the online ringing with children as young as 6 and achieved positive results. The photo below shows Evan Smith smiling after ringing Plain Hunt on 4.

Single Bell Ringing for Grenfell, June 2020

Since the beginning of ‘lockdown’ in March 2020, St Andrew’s bells have remained silent with permission needed to ring a single bell only.

The silence was broken on Sunday 14th June when permission was given to ring a single bell for the 3rd anniversary of the Grenfell fire tragedy.

The tenor was tolled 72 times to remember the 72 victims of the fire followed by 2 minutes silence and 3 more tolls to signify the 3 years that have passed.

A video recording is available on the Parish website.

We hope to hear the bells ringing for happier occasions soon!

Bell Ringers Visit to Bradwell-On-Sea

On Saturday 8th February 2020, a group of 12 bell ringers from Hornchurch and South Ockendon visited Bradwell-On-Sea for a ring on their newly restored set of 8 bells.

There had previously been 8 bells at Bradwell since 1744 but 3 bells went ‘missing’ more than 100 years ago leaving only 5 bells.

A new sixth bell was cast at the end of WW2 (to celebrate victory) but the space in the tower for the 2 other bells remained until 2017.

An extensive campaign to raise £56,000 provided the necessary funds to purchase 2 new trebles as well as refurbishing the rest of the bells, frame and fittings.

The new bells rang very well and were easy for us to handle. We enjoyed ringing some Call Changes on 8 and Plain Bob Doubles before resting in the pub opposite for a well-earned lunch.

Our thanks go to Rosemarie and the Bradwell ringers for making us so welcome.

The photo above shows the group of ringers outside the porch of the church which was also refurbished at the same time as the bells; the main change being the new outer glass doors.

Bell Ringers Thank Noel Drew

In Spring 2019, Mr Noel Drew presented St Andrew’s bell ringers with a commemorative plaque to be placed on the wall of the ringing room.

The plaque, shown below, is a permanent record of the names of all the bell ringers who rang at St Andrew’s on 11th November 2018 which was the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day at the end of WWI.

There were 24 ringers from St Andrew’s who took part in that ringing last November including 7 new recruits who were taught to ring as part of the ‘Ringing Remembers’ campaign. This was a national project that sought to train at least 1400 new bell ringers to symbolically replace the 1400 bell ringers who are known to have lost their lives during WWI.

At St Andrew’s we know of one local bell ringer by the name of John Brockhurst who lost his life during the Great War and we have been able to remember him by name on the commemorative plaque.

At the bell ringers Annual Dinner on 2nd November 2019, Mr Noel Drew was invited as our guest and Clive Stephenson thanked him for the plaque as being a thoughtful and generous addition to the tower. It will remain on the wall as a permanent item of interest and talking point in the years to come.

Anyone is welcome to visit the tower to view the plaque.

Mr Noel Drew with Clive Stephenson and 3 of the ‘Ringing Remembers’ recruits. L – R: David Hill, Paul Stanley, Mr Noel Drew, Clive Stephenson & Kim Mullan