The Bell Tower
The oldest surviving part of the church is the tower supposedly built in 1631 by the famous designer and surveyor to the King, Inigo Jones, who used to visit friends in the neighbourhood. At that time James I was Lord of the Manor. The pinnacles of stone were removed c1950 because they were unsafe. This was attributed to a bomb falling in the Wraysbury Road during the Second World War.
The stairs to the bell ringers’ chamber are tricky but because St Mary’s is on a small hill you are able to see as far as Wraysbury and Englefield Green when the trees are not in leaf. Did you notice how thick the walls are in the tower? Despite that seeming solidity they can be felt moving when the bells are being rung! There must be a resonance of 3 hertz.
Once the church would have provided the venue for community events but frivolity became unacceptable in a holy place. So it is no surprise to see that the local pub is appropriately named The Bells perhaps as an acknowledgement of the high-spirited irreverence of earlier bell ringers!
In December 2002 a project to restore the bells was completed. At that time, the project coordinator wrote :
“St Mary’s Church has a ring of eight bells, five of which date from 1734 and are listed for preservation by the Council for the Care of Churches. The two trebles were added and the tenor recast in 1829 when the church was rebuilt.
In 1999 a survey of the bells revealed cracks in three of the older bells! The cracks were caused by rusting ‘cast in staples’. When the bells were made, loops of iron were cast into the bell for the clapper to swing from. The clapper mechanisms have since been changed and these loops were trimmed off but not drilled out. The remaining iron rusted and expanded thus causing the cracks.
In April 2002, the bells were removed from the tower by the bell hangers, Whites of Appleton. All of the bells had the offending iron drilled out and then the cracked bells, (bells 3, 4 & 5), were taken to Soundweld in Suffolk to be welded. This is the only company in the country to weld bells. Once welded, they were all taken to Whitechapel Bell Foundry to be retuned but not because the welding process had changed their tuning. The two trebles had always been noticeably sharp and had a different ‘character’ to the rest of the ring. Since the bells were out, it seemed a good time to have the whole ring retuned. This has been very successful and many local residents have noticed that the bells have a much fuller clearer sound.
The work included a major overhaul on the bells and they were rehung with completely new wheels, headstocks and other fittings. While the bells were out, the bell chamber was completely cleaned the louvres repaired and the ringing room redecorated. This was all carried out by the ringers themselves. During this work, severe decay due to death watch beetle was found in the oak bell frame. This delayed the project by 3 months while a new lower sill under the two heaviest bells was constructed and fitted by Whites of Appleton. The bells were finally reconsecrated by Bishop Edward Holland at the beginning of December 2002 and rehung in time for Christmas ringing.
The bells are now a delight to ring and regularly announce special occasions such as weddings, funerals as well as regular services.”
HOLINESS TO THE LORD. T. MEARS OF LONDON FECIT 1829
ROBT. GOVETT VICAR CHARLES HAYTER CONTRACTOR
THOS SOUTH, WM . MURRELL CHURCHWARDENS
THE REVD. WM. WILLIAMS A:M: VICAR THO: MILLS ROBT.:STONE CHURCH WARDENS
RICHARD PHELPS OF LONDON MADE ME 1734
IOHN COLLINS WM .COLLINS IA: LOVE IOHN COLE WM.:HARMAN
IOHN RICHARDSON CONTRACTORS
FOR THESE 6 BELLS R:P:F: 1734 #
(two round seals/coins 3.5 cm dia, below year)
|5th||7-2-16 B Flat||
GILBERT EAST HUMPHRE HACKSHAW ESQRS:
IOHN TAYLOR LD: OF THE MANOR IOHN BISSELL
BENEFACTORS TO THESE BELLS & PARISH R:P:FECIT 1734
|4th||6-1-23 C||TE DEUM LAUDAMUS 1734 R: PHELPS FECIT|
|3rd||5-1-23 D||H: BENNETT CLARK 1734|
|2nd||5-2-11 E||T. MEARS OF LONDON FECIT 1829|
|Treble||5-0-18 F||T. MEARS OF LONDON FECIT 1829|