St. Andrew's Hornchurch Guild of Change Ringers

Welcome to the home of the Hornchurch Bell Ringers. Please take a look around to find out more about the art of bellringing and what the ringers get up to at St. Andrew's.

Learn to Ring

Learn to Ring

Interested in learning to ring church bells? All ages and welcome.

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The Bells

The Bells

St. Andrew's Church has 10 bells made from 1779 to 2014.

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The Church

The Church

On the exterior east end of the Church a bull's head that gives the town its name can be seen.

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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

Bell Ringers Say Goodbye to Vicar Barry

Following bell practice on Tuesday 17th September 2019, Barry was invited to the tower for a farewell presentation and drink.

Ringing Master Clive Stephenson thanked Barry for his valuable help and support over the past 12 years, particularly for the ‘new ninth bell’ project in 2013-14.

Barry commented on the regular peal ringing that had taken place during his time as vicar and the peal for Barry & Mary’s wedding in August 2009 was recollected.

Barry also said that he had appreciated the good integration of the bell ringers within the church community.

A farewell quarter peal was rung as a tribute to Barry on his last day of ministry at St Andrew’s. Full details as follows:

Hornchurch, Essex
St Andrew

Sunday, 29 September 2019 in 48min

1260 Grandsire Triples

1. John M Church
2. Heather A Rayner
3. Leonie J McCaughren
4. Paul T Crick
5. Jonathan R Slack
6. Gavin S Carpenter
7. Matthew E Rayner (C)
8. Alan S M Street

A farewell compliment to Revd Barry Hobson on his last day of ministry at St Andrew’s, Hornchurch.

The photograph shows Barry receiving his farewell gift from the bell ringers.

Tony’s 80th Birthday Celebration in the Tower

Bell ringer Tony Ammerlaan celebrated his 80th birthday on Sunday 22nd September 2019.

Tony has been a bell ringer at St Andrew’s for a large number of those 80 years.

He was taught to ring in 1953, aged 14, and rang his first quarter peal in 1957, on the tenor to Plain Bob Triples.

St Andrew’s tower was closed for 3 years in 1958 and Tony then began a long break from bell ringing to start a family. It was his old school friend and work colleague, Ray Rogers, who persuaded Tony to return to the tower in the mid 1990’s and Tony has remained a loyal member of the band ever since.

In 2003 he took on the role of steeple keeper whose job it is to keep the bells in good working order and the tower clean and tidy. In this respect, Tony has done an excellent job.

Additionally, Tony is involved in the local school visits to St Andrew’s where he regularly entertains groups of primary school children with stories from the tower.

It therefore seemed more than fitting that Tony’s 80th birthday was marked with a celebratory drink and presentation in the tower.

The photograph below shows Tony with his wife Joyce receiving his present from bell master Clive Stephenson.

A quarter peal was rung on his actual birthday with details shown below:

Hornchurch, Essex
St Andrew

Sunday, 22 September 2019

1260 Plain Bob Triples

1. John W Stephenson
2. Ros C Skipper
3. John M Church
4. Jaime Hamper
5. James Laken
6. Christopher C M Pain
7. Clive J Stephenson (C)
8. Hayden R Musham

For Evensong and to celebrate the 80th birthday of Tony Ammerlaan on this day.

First in method – 4. 
First on 8 – 8.

Bell Ringers Coach Outing to Bedford

On Saturday 14th September 2019, the sun shone as 50 bell ringers and friends departed for our autumn coach outing to the Bedford area.

At our first stop, Toddington, we joined the local coffee morning before ringing their bells to the tunes of Stedman Triples and Yorkshire Major.

Moving on to Husborne Crawley, the bells were again quite heavy and the high ceiling made them challenging to ring. Courses of Bob Major and Grandsire Triples were successfully achieved.

Our buffet lunch at Bromham Water Mill was gratefully received and non-ringers had extended time to eat and drink whilst the ringers went off to perform at nearby Biddenham. The tower at Biddenham was accessed by climbing an outside staircase over part of the church roof (see photo below.)

At Bedford (St Paul’s) we had the opportunity to ring on a musical set of 12 bells and managed to sound Call Changes on 12 and Plain Hunt on 11. Inside the church, non-ringers visited the Wesley Pulpit where John Wesley preached the Assize Sermon in 1758 on the theme ‘We shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ’

Our final ring at Cardington was on a heavy but musical set of 8 bells and we enjoyed some of our best ringing of the day. This was followed by a carvery dinner and our return to Hornchurch.

Our thanks go to John Church for such a well organised and enjoyable day!

Lunch at Bromham Water Mill

Lunch at Bromham Water Mill

Bell Ringer Award for Hayden on Promotion Sunday

On Promotion Sunday, young bell ringer Hayden Musham received an award for ringing his first quarter peal during the past year.

Hayden learnt to ring at the start of 2017, rang his first quarter peal in 2018 and has now rung a total of 5 quarter peals; 4 at St Andrew’s and one at North Ockendon. A quarter peal involves about 45 minutes of continuous ringing.

The prize received was a ringing record book and a book containing diagrams of the whole range of bell ringing patterns or methods.

The photograph shows Hayden receiving his prize from Ken Wylie together with Clive Stephenson.