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Belfry News June 2017

The Munificence of Miss Charington

She lived frugally but gave financial backing to a number of good causes. However her most generous gift was the enormous (at that time) sum of £30,000 for the construction of St Pauls Church, Fulney. Gedney residents who regularly visit Spalding cannot miss its striking red brick Victorian Gothic lines, complete with stone spire rising to 135 feet. The architect was Sir George Gilbert Scott and its first vicar was her nephew, Richard Guy Ash who remained there for the next 55 years until his death in 1935 The church, which seats 500 has many interesting features, but for me as a bell ringer, the tower and what is in it is the main attraction.

The original eight bells were cast by T C Lewis of Brixton, an unusual choice of contractor, as this firm, well known as organ builders were relatively unknown as bell founders, though they did cast some 102 bells between the years 1878 to 1888. Unfortunately Mr Lewis did not use a tuning lathe and cast what bell ringers call "maiden bells", which sometimes resulted in rather suspect tonal qualities. Thus it seems that the treble and second bells, being too light and thin, had to be recast by Taylors. This modification was completed in 1889 making the present ring of eight as they are today.

On May 16th I was fortunate in being able to visit the tower, though its bells have not been rung for many years. Despite this and the general aura of neglect, the ringing room was in good order, all bell ropes intact. I was able to gently and effortlessly swing all the bells except the tenor, which was practically immovable. Above in the clock room, with its clock that no longer goes, a dead magpie was a portent of what I would find in the bell chamber above-piles of twigs and one huge nest on a cross beam in the spire. Such a shame, but as Mary Wilson, Church Warden, explained, they have very little finance and a congregation of 20 or so each Sunday, their Flower Festival this year only realising some £500. Work to exclude the birds could be expensive, particularly if they are entering via apertures in the spire.

Christine Higgins, a former Tower Captain at St Pauls tells me they had, during the 1980-1990's a band to ring all eight bells, some ringers also being choristers. Unfortunately today there are neither choir nor bell ringers. On June 20th I went to Gedney Hill where Miss Charington is buried. She lies adjacent to the north door of the church, her grave surmounted by a simple carved granite slab bearing the inscription "Charlotte Charington, Born 1800 Deceased 1888" with the added words "Jesu-Mercy" Yes Miss Charlotte, times may be hard at St Pauls but let us hope that your munificent legacy survives for all time.

John Bennett