The Bells of Frenchay Church
Standing on Frenchay Common, Frenchay church appears to be at the centre of an ideal English village scene, with only a game of cricket on the Common, and the merry sound of the church bells ringing, needed to complete the Arcadian image.
But although cricket had been played on the Common since the 1840s, there was only ever one bell in the church…
However, in the late 1980s and early 1990’s, parishioners and friends completed that ideal image by undertaking a massive DIY project to install a ring of six bells.
A book has just been produced by the Frenchay ringers to mark the 30th anniversary of the consecration of the bells, which took place on 25th August 1991, and the copiously illustrated book tells the story.
The inspiration for the project came from the adjacent parish of Winterbourne, where in the early 1980s the bellringers, led by Tower Captain Terry Jefferies, completed a DIY restoration of the 18th Century bells in the church there. Terry also became a leading figure in the Frenchay project.
To help keep the cost of the Frenchay scheme down, unused bells were identified and collected from many sources. Four bells came from a local hospital, two from the former Seaman’s Mission building in Bristol, as well as some from redundant churches. In all 12 bells were collected, and although 3 were given to other local projects, four were used as they were, and two new ones cast from the bell metal provided by the rest.
A huge amount of work had to be done to the church building to create a belfry in the tower, and a ringing room from which the bellringers could ring the bells. All this work was done entirely by volunteers in their spare time.
There was amazing support from the ringing community in the wider area, as well as local people who just simply wanted to support the project. Local businesses helped with donations, but also by loaning such unusual items as cranes and cherry pickers, as well as donating significant items - like steel beams!
There was also help from further away. A Japanese handbell team visiting the UK offered to give a money raising concert in Frenchay. This helped pay for the work that had to be done by Taylor’s bell foundry - they were to cast the two new bells. And the hurricane that BBC weatherman Michael Fish failed to forecast in 1987 played an unexpected role.
The culmination of the project came on Sunday 25th August 1991 when the Bishop of Bristol officiated at a service to consecrate the six bells - the first new ring of bells in the Diocese of Bristol since the 1930s.
The new book telling the story of the project is lavishly illustrated with photographs of all stages of the work, and was produced by the Frenchay bellringers to mark the 30th anniversary of the consecration.
Copies are available by emailing email@example.com. The price is £5 + £1.50 p&p.
Copies are also available in Frenchay Village Museum, which is usually open on Saturdays and Sundays 2-5pm or Wednesdays 1-4pm