ASTLEY St Mary the Virgin 5, 8-2-9 in F# Minor
|Sunday||By Arrangement for the
3.30pm service (Esp. 3rd)
History Of The Bells
This was once a collegiate church, built in 1343, having a central tower with a tall wooden spire. A landmark in the woodland, it was known as the “Lanthorn of Arden”. After the dissolution in 1545 the church was plundered for its materials and neglected, and this led to the collapse of the tower in about 1600. In 1607-8 Richard Chamberlaine of Astley Castle decided to re-establish it as a parish church. He retained the original chancel as the present nave, adding the west tower (dated 1607 on a now eroded stone on the south-west buttress) and the chancel (1608). The ruins of Astley Castle are nearby. They have recently been very successfully (partially) restored by The Landmark Trust as holiday accommodation
Unusually the bells are in the minor key and the rope guides even have a space for the tenor should it ever arrive! However, the spell is broken once you realise the guides were bought second hand and the space in the frame would actually be for a treble. This pit has, at some time, been occupied. However, there is no evidence that shows six ringing bells have ever been hung.
The bells, which are contemporary with the rebuilding of the tower with the tenor subsequently being recast, are hung in a massive old oak frame for six, of slightly doubtful rigidity, but handle quite well. The bells were retuned and rehung with new fittings in the old frame of 1607 by Taylors in 1912. The canons have been removed from all the bells. The treble, second and tenor have been one-eight turned and the third and fourth one quarter turned. The tenor has long been inaccurately quoted as being 8-2-19.
There is also a small clock bell hanging in a wrought iron frame on the floor of the bell chamber, cast by James Barwell in the late 19th century. It has a diameter of 14 inches, sounds a note flat of G natural, and weighs about ¾cwt. It is sounded by means of a clock hammer.
Entrance is from inside, using the main west door. Parking is limited near to the church, some space is available at the base of the tower.
Details of the Bells
1 Newcombe, Leicester 1607 4-2-00 29.50" 1120.0Hz (C#+16)
2 Newcombe, Leicester 1607 5-1-06 31.25" 1000.0Hz (B+21c)
3 Newcombe, Leicester 1607 5-2-15 33.00" 892.0Hz (A+23c)
4 Newcombe, Leicester 1607 7-2-06 36.125" 841.5Hz (G#+23c)
5 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston 1722 8-2-19 38.25" 750.0Hz (F#+23c)
Clock Bell James Barwell & Co, Birmingham c1899 ¾cwt 14.00" (G)
|The Nave||One of several wall paintings|
|The Ringing Chamber||The Third Bell|
|Asley Castle ruins|
The castle is really a fortified manor house. The Astley family owned it from about 1266 to 1420 when Sir William's daughter inherited it and, as she was married to Lord Grey of Ruthin, it became the home to the Grey family. The Grey's rebuilt the castle in 1555.
Three women who married kings or became queen lived at Astley Castle: Firstly, Elizabeth Woodville, who became wife of Edward IV. Her first husband was Sir John Grey; Secondly, her daughter, Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII; Lastly, her Great-Great-Granduaghter, Lady Jane Grey, "The Nine Days Queen". Following her execuction Astley Castle was "slighted", forfeited and then sold by the Crown to Edward Chamberlein, who restored it.
The castle was sold to the Newdigate family in 1694 , as their second home. It was leased out for much of the 20th century and the building was used as a hotel from the early 1960s until 1978 when it was gutted by fire.