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Bells and Bell Ringing

The bell ringing teams welcome enquiries from experienced ringers or those wanting to learn the relaxing art of bell-ringing; a past-time that costs nothing and provides excellent social contacts.

Home St Peter's, Drayton St Peter and St Paul, Appleford St Blaise, Milton All Saints, Sutton Courtney St Michael and All Angels, Steventon

St Peter's, Drayton

The Revd Francis Robinson, who was vicar from 1878 to 1908, was an excellent woodcarver, and evidence of his work can be seen in the bell tower screen.

He was also a great bell ringer and was the first ‘thousand peeler’. In 1871 he saw that the bells were cracked and has them re–cast by Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and he gave a treble and tenor in 1879 (also by Mears and Stainbank) to augment the peal to eight. There is also a sanctus bell, cast in about 1870 by one of the Wells family of bellfounders of Aldbourne, Wiltshire.

A Guild of Bell Ringers was formed in 1881 and Francis Robinson became the Guild’s founding Master. A memorial plaque to him can be seen in the cloisters of Christ Church Cathedral and a Blue Plaque is situated close to the bell tower on the church room wall. There are several commemoration boards of peels that have been rung in the tower.

Tower Captain – Nick Clarke 01235 820760

St Peter and St Paul, Appleford

Between 1885 and 1887, at the expense of Walter Justice (to whom there is a memorial in the church and whose tomb can be found in the churchyard), the Norman nave was rebuilt and extended by nearly 6 feet, and a tower and steeple added, to designs by W Gillbee Scott. This allowed a peel of six bells, instead of four, and is a landmark for miles around in the flat and open Thames-side landscape. There are two of the original four bells remaining – the fourth bell, cast at Wokingham in the late 14th century, and the fifth by the same foundry in the late 15th century. The first, second, third and tenor bells were case or recast by John Warner and Sons of Cripplegate in 1886, in time to be rung for the golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.

Sadly, the bells are not in a condition to be rung at present.

St Blaise, Milton

The 1552 Inventory shows that there were four bells in the tower; Richard Keene of Woodstock recast these into five in 1682. These five bells were hung in a wooden frame which dated from around 1640, predating the bells. Following a public subscription, a sixth bell was cast by Mears & Stainbank in 1906. In 1999 a decision was made to replace the six bells with a new and lighter peal of eight bells hung in a new frame on one level in the tower. Of the previous bells, the old second has been retained on display in the church, the remaining five have been sold and form part of a ring of six at Hackthorn in Lincolnshire. The eight new bells were cast by the Whitechapel Foundry in London and form the first complete ring cast to Gillett and Johnston profiles since the closure of the Croydon foundry in the 1950’s. The new bells were first rung on 2 July 2002. Full details of the bells are given in the tower.

Tower Captain – Colin Turner 012235 833938

All Saints', Sutton Courtenay

There were four bells in the tower in 1552, and six until 1986. There are now eight, ranging in weight from 3 to 12 hundredweight, and tuned to F major. Richard Keene of Woodstock cast the sixth and seventh bells in 1672, Thomas Swain of Longford, Middlesex, cast the third bells in 1787. In 1829 Robert Taylor cast the fifth bell at his Oxford foundry in 1829. Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel recast the tenor bell in 1965. Then the Whitchapel Bell Foundry cast the present treble and second bells in 1986.

Tower Captain – John Napper 01235 846292

St Michael and All Angels, Steventon

The tower has a ring of six bells, originally hung in wooden frames, and a Sanctus bell. In 1552 the Commissioners’ Inventories record ‘Stevington: three belles in the stepulle: A small belle: Sacringe belle: A burying belle’. William Yare of Reading cast the fourth and tenor bells in 1613. Henry I Knight, also of Reading, cast the second bell in 1617. Ellis II Knight and Henry III Knight cast the treble bell in 1674. William Taylor of Loughborough cast the third and fifth bells in 1849, presumably at their Oxford foundry. Rather unusually, the main entrance to the church is through the ground floor of the tower, which also serves as the ringing chamber, with three bell-ropes on either side of the entrance.

Tower Captain – Mrs Claire Ward 01235 519348