St Lawrence Church Bells
by Jim Platt, July 2018
August 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the occasion when the present installation of 6 bells was first rung - 12 August 1998. It is a significant event in that they have been rung for every service since then. This was thanks to David Todd who drove through their installation and was Tower Captain up to his death in 2017.
David Todd played a pivotal role in organising the fund-raising and then fighting the bureaucracy to get authority for the bells to be put in the ancient tower of St Lawrence. Once the project was approved, Nicholson Engineering of Bridport were contracted to design and construct the new bell installation. David worked tirelessly with the contractor to extract the old bells and wooden bell frame, and install the new steel frame. This involved strengthening the existing walls and support.
There were two bells before 1998 - one cast in 1594 and the other in 1767. This latter bell was found a home in another tower. The 1594 bell has been retained and is the number 4 bell of the present ring. Five new bells were cast in the world-famous Whitechapel Foundry and other members of the church visited during the casting process to make sure it was all done properly. The tenor (heaviest bell) weighs 5 cwt 3 qtrs and 6 lbs (650 lbs or 295 kg).
Despite the person ringing the tenor moving over a quarter of a ton of metal, this is considered a light bell installation. In contrast the tenor in St Thomas Church in Salisbury weighs 25 cwt or one and a quarter tons. The tenor has cast on it the names of the incumbert, The Venerable Barney Hopkinson, and churchwardens at the time, Paddy Coggan and Michael Parker. It is the tenor bell which is struck every hour by our 18th century clock, Michael Parker's pride and joy.
L-R David Todd, Paddy Coggan, Michael Parker
Image kindly provided by Michael Parker.
Having got the bells in position there was a service of dedication to bless the bells conducted by Barney Hopkinson. The process of installing the bells, including the service of dedication, was captured on a video - 'Six Bells for St Lawrence' - made by Dick Fox.
David's death left a large hole in the village where he had produced the Parish Magazine for 27 years and had been the go-to-person to get anything technical done on the Church or Reading Room. He had been a ringer for 66 years and his passing left a large hole in the ringing community and particularly in our tower. Harry Brockway took over the role of Tower Captain on David's death and worked tirelessly to motivate and build up the band of ringers. Having built up an enthusiastic home team to ring for all the services and weddings, keepng up the tradition established by David Todd, Harry sadly died in 2019. Harry was suceeded by Alison Clayton, the current Tower Captain.
These are bell muffles, kept in the bell tower of St Lawrence Church.
They are attached to the clappers, on one side for half muffled or both for fully muffled, to attenuate the bell’s chime.
Fully muffled is used for the death of a monarch though in September 2022 St Lawrence bells rang half muffled as fully muffled is too quiet to carry far.
They ring half muffled every Remembrance Day as well.