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RUGBY St Andrew
North-East Tower 8, 24-3-8 in Eb
West Tower 5, 9-2-3 in A

Grid Reference 140/504752 Rugby - Source: M Chester
Postcode CV21 3PT
Recordings
8 Bell Ring                5 Bell Ring
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database - 8 Bells
Felstead Database - 5 Bells
Sunday 1000-1030
Practice Monday 1930-2100  1st West Tower. Others North-East Tower
Other Information Church Website

History

Set in the centre of this railway town, this church is unique in that it has two rings of 5 or more bells in different towers. ​St. Andrew's is the original parish church of Rugby. Whilst few of the architectural features assist in dating, it is believed the church is of the 14th Century. The only remnant of the medieval church is the 22m tall West Tower, built in the 14th Century by Henry de Rokeby the second. The tower probably had a defensive as well as a religious role and is Rugby's oldest building. The medieval font, worn and badly damaged, along with a 13th Century parish chest with scrolled ironwork, also survive.

The first mention of a parish church, was in 1140 named St. Andrew 'Castle', but believed to have been built near Regent Place by Sir Henry de Rokeby. However, in 1157 this castle was demolished upon the order of Henry II. 1221 was the first record of a priest, Simon the Decon, and in 1298 the church was re-dedicated to Pope Nicholas IV, possibly when the town became an independent parish.

By 1652, St. Andrew's had become badly neglected and so following complaints about its dangerous condition it was renovated and enlarged. However, following the rapid growth of Rugby's population during the 19th Century, it again became necessary to enlarge and improve the church and so the decision was made to entirely rebuild it. In 1877 Dr. Temple, Bishop of Exeter and a former headmaster of Rugby School laid the foundation stone for the new building. Over the next three years the architect William Butterfield and builders Parnell & Son were commissioned to complete the work costing over £20,000. The only part of the medieval church left was the West Tower. In 1894 the 55 metres (182 feet) tall East Tower and the spire were also added.

The ring of 5, put up in October of 1711 in the West tower is the original ring. This replaced a ring of four which had a heavier tenor; it being cracked at the time of the recasting. The five hang in an early C17th oak frame (c.1620). The frame is arranged to have the four heaviest bells around the walls of the tower and the treble in the middle. They were rehung with new fittings by Taylors in 1930. The frame was strengthened and the bells were retuned and quarter turned. The canons were not removed from the bells at this time. This was simply reported in the "Belfry Gossip" column of The Ringing World on April 25th 1930, "St. Andrew’s Church, Rugby, is almost unique in tho possession of two towers. In one is a ringing peal of eight, in the other is a ring of five. These latter have now heen restored by Messrs. Taylor and Co., of Loughborough, and Messrs. J. Smith and Sons, of Derby, have installed a new clock"

Note that the weights, taken at the time of tuning are actually heavier than those given by Tilley and Walters. The bearings being replaced locally in 2002/3 following a major tower restoration. Recent research has shown that the 5 are in the key of A (-22c) and not G as has been previously stated.

The heavy, old fashioned 8, was purchased some 10 years after the tower was built. They were dedicated on 18th June 1896. The bells cost £513 13s 2d and the frame, fittings and chiming apparatus brought the total bill up to £812 3s 2d.  the dedication was reported in Bell News on July 4th 1896:

 
(click to enlarge)

The Bell News of June 11th 1904 reports: 

Rugby (Warwickshire). St. Andrew. Midland Counties Association. Eight bells. All by Mears, 1895. Tenor 25 cwt., diameter 4 ft. 5 in. Timber frame. Bells go well. Ropes new 1895, good. Methods; Grandsire, Stedman, Plain and Treble Bob. Sunday ringing: 10.30 to I I , and 6.30 to 7. Practice: Monday, 7. (Notice that no mention is made of the ring of 5).

The Ringing World of May 9th 1919 reports that the tenor's gudgeon broke during a Warwickshire Guild meeting and the bell fell sideways into its pit - this must have been repaired shortly afterwards, as a peal was rung on the bells on 27th December that year.  It is noticeable that they abandoned ringing, rather than continue the ringing on the ring of 5.

The eight were rehung by Mears & Stainbank in 1955 when the original frame was lowered in the tower and the bells rehung on ball bearings. This was mentioned in The Ringing  World of July 8th  1955:

"St Andrew’s, Rugby
The octave in the new tower of St. Andrew's Church, Rugby, were rung on June 19th for the first time since their restoration. The bell frame has been lowered approximately 16 feet in the tower, and all the bells are now mounted on ball bearings.
A special service was held on June 19th, when the Archdeacon of Oakham (the Ven. E. N. Millard) blessed the work that had been carried out.
The majority of the money for these alterations was provided by Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Hudson as a memorial to their parents."

A more recent rehanging, by Whitechapel, in the existing frame was completed in 1992 - the bells not removed from the church or weighed. The "Doncaster Heads" were removed at this time and new, cast iron, headstocks replaced the existing wooden ones. The plan to do this was reported in The Ringing World of June 14th 1991:

(Click to enlarge)

The dedication of the rehung bells was announced in The Ringing World of April 10th 1992:

"The work of rehanging the eight bells in the N.E. tower of St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Rugby, by the Whitechapel Foundry, is scheduled for completion on Friday, 8 May. The bells will be rededicated by Bishop Vernon Nicholls at a Service of Choral Evensong in church at 6 p.m. on Sunday, 17 May. At the same time a plaque will be unveiled to the memory of Sir Billy Butlin and in thanksgiving for the substantial donation by the Patron of our Appeal, Lady Sheila Butlin. The service, to which all are invited, will be followed by general ringing."

The 8 are in the "modern" key E flat: standard pitch "flattened" sometime around 1900 so many peals are now closer to a semitone sharper than old charts say.

The ring of 8 was pealed first, in 1899:

the ring of 5 not being pealed until 1950:

The inscriptions of the bells are recorded in Tilley and Walters' book, "The Church Bells of Warwickshire":

Ring of 5:

Ring of 8

Local ringer, the late Stewart Smith published a comprehensive article on the 50-bell ring in The Ringing World of September 23rd 2011


(Click images to enlarge)

Car parking close to the church is not easy and you should use pay and display facilities nearby.

Entrance to the 8 is usually from outside the tower round the left as you look at the photograph, though there is an internal entrance via the vestry.  The entrance to the 5 it is often through the main north door, but sometimes the tower door!

Details of the 8 Bells

1 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896   6-3-02  31.50"
2 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896   7-0-25  32.67"
3 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896   8-0-27  35.125"
4 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896   9-1-19  37.25"
5 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896  11-2-22  41.00"
6 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896  12-2-08  42.00"
7 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896  17-0-11  47.125"
8 Mears & Stainbank, London  1896  24-3-08  53.00"
NB The cannons were removed during the 1992 rehanging and therefore the weights must be considered approximate.

Details of the 5 Bells

                                           T&W Weights
1 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston    1711   4-2-05   4-2-02     30.00" 1304.0Hz (E-19c)
2 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston    1711   4-3-17   4-1-20     30.50" 1159.0Hz (D-23c)
3 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston    1711   5-2-17   5-2-03     32.50" 1096.0Hz (C#-20c)
4 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston    1711   6-3-21   6-2-22     35.50" 976.5Hz (B-20c)
5 Joseph Smith, Edgbaston    1711   9-2-03   9-0-19     39.50" 869.0Hz (A-22c)

Photo Gallery

Both Towers. Source: Mike Chester The Church - Looking East. Source: Mike Chester The Church - Looking West. Source: Mike Chester
Photo to show the relationship
between the two towers 
The Church - Looking East The Church - Looking West
The Chancel. Source: Mike Chester Thge 5-Bell Ringing Chamber. Source: Mike Chester The 8-Bell Ringing Chamber. Source: Mike Chester
The Chancel Ringing on the 5 Bells The 8-Bell Ringing Chamber
rugby1929_small    
The 5 Bells During
the 1929 Restoration
   

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