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Belfry News January 2019

Bristol at Sutterton, January 24th 2019

The church of St Mary V. dates from the late thirteenth century, its construction being financed by the local salt industry. A fine central tower topped by a spire rising to 160 feet is a distinguishing feature of this building, easily seen from a distance despite the grey January weather. It was my first visit to Sutterton and having perused "Dove" beforehand, I had formed, as we will see, a rather erroneous opinion as to the tonal qualities of the bells. Meeting Ian Ansell, I exclaimed, "Ian, this is my first visit here, but looking at the mixed bag of founders and dates of casting, I would not expect the sound to be particularly inspiring". "Well", Ian retorted, a wintry smile on his face which metaphorically resembled the outside weather, "in that case you may as well get back to Gedney". "No no", I replied defensively, "I would like to hear them as I could be infinitely wrong."

So what is in this tower? Records show that in 1720 there were five bells all by Henry Penn of Peterborough. A sixth bell by Osborn was added in 1784 and then in 1797 two smaller bells completed the octave. These were by Briant of Hertford, the treble being the gift of a certain John Cabourn. Finally two of the Penn bells, Nos 6 and 7, were recast by Taylor in 1937, so today we have three by Penn, one by Osborn, two by Briant plus the two modern bells by Taylor. On hearing them I made my peace with Ian, ruefully eating my earlier unfounded criticisms as their sound is very good indeed.

A note in North tells us "The ringers have been noted as good ones for many years" and it seems that they also enjoyed themselves, as according to an entry in the churchwardens accounts dated Nov 3 1803, "Paid ringers £2-12-0 dinner and drinck" they also appreciated the social side of bellringing. Good to know that some aspects of life have not changed. John Caborn, the donor of the treble was a noted bellhanger who commenced business with 16 shillings and when he died in 1813 left about £20000 in property. Buried at Sutterton his gravestone carries the inscription "Celebrated and admired for his professional excellence as a church bellhanger" Ian tells me that this stone, although still in place, is unfortunately covered with lichen.

The Bristol had been organised by Alan Bird and Syvia Taylor, Alan calling successive three lead touches to enhance our progress in this method. Years since I last rang Bristol I was "rusty" but after a few touches the old wheels began to turn, finishing with a few plain courses, much enjoyed by all. I left as the twilight descended, the winter mists rising from the fields. A most happy afternoon and thanks to Ian, Alan, Sylvia and all who contributed. Home, and as I walked through our front door, Rita's cheerful voice called "You are just in time for a cuppa-I have the kettle on", a fitting end to the winters afternoon.

John Bennett