The Ascension History

St Maurice’s, Winchester

Prior to 1919, St Maurice’s Church, Winchester contained a peal of 5 bells:

  1. Cast in 1639 by John Higden, an itinerant founder (formerly foreman of Joseph Carter of Reading Bell Foundry). This bell may have been cast at Romsey, Hants since it is known that he cast a bell for Winchester College there in 1636-37.
  2. Cast circa 1380 at the Wokingham Bell Foundry, Berkshire. Established as successor to a founding fraternity attached to Chertsey Abbey, Surrey.
  3. Cast in 1603 by John Wallis of Salisbury, Wiltshire.
  4. Cast circa 1420 at the Wokingham Bell Foundry, Berkshire.
  5. Cast in 1610 by Robert Beconsall, an itinerant founder.

In 1919, while St. Maurice’s Church was under the care of Rev. W. E. Colchester (later editor of Hampshire Church Bells), the ring of five was restored as a war memorial, the treble being recast and a further treble bell added to make a ring of six, by Gillett & Johnson of Croydon. The six bells were provided with cast iron headstocks and all new ringing fittings, and it is likely that the old bells had their canons removed and were tuned at this time.

Transfer to Bitterne Park and Augmentation to Eight

In 1957, when the bells were transferred to Bitterne Park, they were augmented to eight with the addition of two new treble bells. The tenor was recast at this time and a service bell added. The new peal of eight were provided with a new frame and fittings for the new trebles. All work was undertaken at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. At the request of the Church authorities, the bells were hung in such a manner that the ropes would not obscure the view of the west window from the main body of the building. To accomodate this request, the bell frame was arranged in two rows of four and the ropes fell in a similar manner, with one row on the south side and one row on the north side of the ringing area. While this arrangement was less than ideal for good ringing, it allowed very easy access to each of the bells for maintenance.

Augmentation to Twelve

Following many months of fundraising, the bells were removed from the tower in January 2007 and the old bell frame was rearranged and extended to accomodate 13 bells with the ropes falling in a more conventional circular layout. The original eight were then re-hung in the new frame and a new rope guide installed.

In April 2008 the four newly cast trebles arrived and were hung in the new frame, along with the old service bell, which had been been retuned to be hung for full-circle ringing as a flat 6th. A new service bell was also hung for slow chiming. This event was covered by the Daily Echo. The augmented peal of bells, spanning over 600 years of bell-founding, gave Southampton its first ring of 12 and are also the lightest ring of 12 bells in the world.

We would like to thank both the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers as well as the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths for their support towards the scheme. The bell ropes were ordered in SRCY colours (burgundy and white) as a mark of their affiliation to the project.

Bell Details

BELL

WEIGHT (cwt-qtr-lbs)

NOTE

FOUNDER

DATE

1 2-0-21 D# Hayward Mills Associates 2008
2 2-1-4 C# 2008
3 2-1-24 B# 2008
4 2-2-13 A# 2008
5 2-1-21 G# Mears & Stainbank 1957
6 2-2-11 G 1957
6b 2-3-13 F# 1900
7 2-3-27 E# Gillett & Johnson 1919
7b 2-3-24 E Hayward Mills Associates 2007
8 3-1-0 D# Gillett & Johnson 1919
9 3-1-14 C# Wokingham Foundry c1380
10 4-2-21 B# John Wallis 1603
11 6-1-20 A# Wokingham Foundry c1420
12 8-1-13 G# Mears & Stainbank 1957
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