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WARWICK St Mary 10, 24-3-20 in D

Grid Reference 151/282650 Warwick, St Mary Church - Source J Gwynne
Postcode CV34 4AB
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 0945 - 1030 (ex 1st) 1030 - 1100 (1st)
1745 - 1830
Practice Wednesday 1930-2100 (1 & 3) (Check for 5th)
Other Information Church Website


An historic church that is one anyone should stop a while and visit before ringing there. The Beauchamp Chapel is beautiful. The tower stands stands out for miles around, the tower door being in the north-east pier.

The church was founded as a collegiate church (administered by a 'college' of a Dean and Canons) in 1123 by Roger de Newburgh, second Earl of Warwick. The style of Newburgh's church was decidedly Romanesque, with heavy, rounded pillars. The best surviving part of that Norman church is in the crypt. The early Norman church was rebuilt in the 14th century by Thomas Beauchamp, father and son, the first Beauchamp Earls of Warwick. The first Thomas Beauchamp financed his building of the chancel with money obtained from the ransom of a French archbishop. The chancel, vestries, and chapter house were rebuilt in Gothic style.

Thomas Beauchamp's  descendant, Richard de Beauchamp (d.1439),  provided funds in his will for the creation of a chantry chapel in St Mary's. This, aptly dubbed The Beauchamp Chapel, is one of the great Gothic architectural achievements in England. The executors of Beauchamp's will spent over £2400, an enormous sum in those days, creating a masterpiece of Gothic style which took over 20 years to complete. The chapel, which is dedicated to Our Lady, is composed of three bays, at the centre of which is the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, raised on a pedestal and surrounded by an iron fence. The effigy of Earl Richard is set upon a chest of Purbeck marble, with a canopy above, and latten (gilded in copper alloys) weeping figures below. Beside the tomb of Earl Richard is that of Ambrose Dudley (d. 1590), whose effigy wears a gilded iron coronet, added in the 18th century. The grandest tomb of all in the Beauchamp Chapel is that of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (d.1588), and his wife Lettice (d.1634). Dudley, the brother of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, and one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. His tomb is set into the north wall of the chapel, beneath a gilded canopy.

Warwick had its own "Great Fire" in 1694. The blaze destroyed much of the old medieval town, and the nave and tower of St Mary's were lost. Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul's in London, submitted a design for reconstruction of the church, but Wren's design was rejected in favour of one by Sir William Wilson of Sutton Coldfield. The most striking aspect of Wilson's design is the west tower, which stands 174 feet high, and, unusually, projects out into the road, with a arches on three sides to allow passage under the tower for foot traffic. 

In 1552 there were "v belles" and by 1656 a treble had been added. Tilley & Walters state that the treble had no inscription, the second was probably by Newcombe, the third was cast in Worcester, the 5th in Nottingham. The fourth and tenor was Isabella Despenser, Countess of Warwick who died in 1439 foundress of the Beauchamp Chapel.

There became a ring of eight here in 1656 when the old tenor was recast into three trebles at Coventry by Bryan Eldridge. All were destroyed in the Great Fire of Warwick.

Abraham Rudhall was contracted to provide a new ring of eight which were delivered in 1702, but in the following year two more bells were added to make ten. The tenor was first recast in 1725 and recast again by Mears in 1814, its frequency now equating to D-34c.  There was something of a scathing report of the standard of ringing here in the Bell News of 1st October 1887:

"The bells are a ring of ten, tenor 28 cwt. in the key of D. They are hung so that the circle of ropes fall in what is known as the “ left-handed ” position, though perhaps right-handed would be the proper term, the second being to the right of the treble, instead of the left. Only two peals are known to have been rung here, and those not by local men. Indeed it is doubtful whether throughout the history of ringing, a changeringer was ever found who was a native of Warwick. Mr. Joseph Bickerton, who was for many years the respected verger, was a very good ringer, but he hailed from Coventry. He evidently was unable to make any progress with the “ Warwick Youths,” whom he essayed to teach the art. The ringing room is a spacious and somewhat comfortable apartment, and the bells at one time went fairly well. The church of St. Mary of Warwick ought to be an important headquarters of the Exercise. Perhaps if there was a County Association something would be done. The societies who could formulate and bring to perfection such an Association are those already in Birmingham, but as they seem to be at sixes and sevens with each other, it is very doubtful whether any co-operation from such a quarter can be looked for. Meanwhile the grand old tower and its bells are silent, and change-ringing continues unknown in the ancient borough." Things did indeed change, and this was published in Bell News on December 8th 1900:

Before the present year the Art of change-ringing was entirely unknown to Warwick, or, with one exception, to the neighbourhood. About a year ago, the Vicar and Churchwardens of St. Mary’s, which contains a fine peal of ten bells, appointed Mr. E. H. Adams, ringing master and instructor. Mr. Adams is well known in London as a ringer of experience. On January 31st, of this year, the St. Mary’s Society of change-ringers was founded with seven members, two only of whom had acquired the Art of ringing changes. At the present time the Society is able to ring Grandsire Triples successfully and the membership has risen to eighteen. Such a record for a year’s work may be considered very encouraging. A meeting was held on November 29th, under the auspices of the Vicar and Churchwardens, which has now placed the Society on a firm foundation. It is hoped that the Society may become a centre of ringing in a neighbourhood hitherto confined to the weary limits of call-changes. There are two fine peals of eight bells in Warwick, besides St. Mary’s ring of ten, and there are many good towers of six close round. Whether St. Mary’s Society can in the future extend its sphere of influence or not, change-ringers will always find a welcome at St. Mary’s tower."

There was a major restoration in 1901 that involved the recasting of 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 & 8. As noted above, before this restoration they were an anticlockwise 10. The old bells were retuned. Prior to this the 5th was 8-0-21, the 6th 9-3-21, the 9th 18-3-18 and the tenor 27-0-14.

Cast iron frame and fittings are by Taylors, 1901. The back four were hung on ball bearings by Arthur Fidler in 1979 and numbers 4, 5 & 6 in 1981 by the same person. The rest were rehung on ball bearings by Taylors during 2008. The Taylor bells were all cast with flat tops and the canons have been removed from the others. The inscriptions at this time are given in Tilley and Walters' book, "The Church Bells of Warwickshire":

The opening was reported in "Bell News" on February 15th 1902:

On February 6th the ring of ten bells in this tower was re.dedicated and re-opened after being re-hung and partly re-cast by Messrs. T aylor, of Loughborough.

The bells were originally cast by Abraham Rudhall, and the tenor was re-cast by Messrs. Mears in 1814. Of late years they have gone very badly, but they have been rung a good deal recently till last summer, when they suddenly began to go so badly that it was next to impossible to ring them. Messrs. John Taylor and Co. were then called in, and they submitted an estimate and the work was put in hand. The old oak frame which has done service for 197 years was completely worn out, and has now been re-placed by a cast iron H frame on steel girders let into the tower. The bells have been equipped with iron stocks and new gudgeons, wheels, clappers, etc. It was found necessary to re-cast the 7th and 8th bells, as they were slightly cracked, and Messrs. Taylor strongly recommended that the first four should undergo the same operation to improve the general tone of the peal. Besides this the other bells have all been tuned, with the effect that the tone is undoubtedly greatly improved all through, and the work done has given the greatest satisfaction to all who have since heard the bells, and this in spite of the fact that they have always been regarded as a good peal. From the ringers’ point of view there has also been a great improvement, but as it is here a step from badness to perfection, it is so much the more marked. The names of those present will vouch for the value of the criticisms recorded.

The Archdeacon of Worcester visited St. Mary’s to rededicate the bells. In the course of a short service in the church he gave an address on bells and their uses. He said that bells had a historical value, as by means of the inscriptions and marks upon them they could teach much. Tow ers were built in the eleventh century to hold big bells, and there is no doubt that there were bells at that time. After the dissolution of the monasteries there was a considerable trade in second-hand bells. Then bells were associated with our joys and sorrows in life, at Christmas, at weddings, and at funerals. He was glad to see that as formerly bells were opened and christened with drinking bouts, now they were dedicated solemnly to the Glory of God and the use of His church. The belfry was as much a part of the church as the choir, and he impressed on all present that all that was done there should be done “ decently and in order.” A t the conclusion of his address the Archdeacon was conducted to the ringing-chamber, where he re-dedicated the six bells that had been re-cast individually, laying his hand on the ropes. A few rounds were then rung while the clergy returned to the church.

After the service the Vicar presided at a tea, to which a company of thirty sat down, including Mr. John Taylor, jun., of Loughborough, Mr. Godden (the secretary), and Mr. Painter, a prominent member of the St. Martin’s Guild ; Mr. S. Reeves, secretary for the Society for the Archdeaconry of Stafford ; Mr. Gilbert, of Coventry ; Mr. Stanley, of St. Nicholas, Warwick ; Mr. Pinfold, of All Saints, Warwick ; and Mr. Male, of Hatton ; besides the full strength of the local society. The society is a young one, but under the hard work and perseverance of Mr. E . H . Adams, who was well known in London ringing circles when he was there, it has started well, and has lately been greatly strengthened by Mr. Mathews, who has done much ringing in the Gloucester and Bristol diocese.

During the evening most of the company present tried the bells, and some very good touches were rung. The greatest satisfaction was expressed by those whose opinion is of great experience as to the tone and “ go ” of the bells. Certainly the work in the tower leaves nothing to be desired. With such a fine peal so well hung it is to be hoped that the work of introducing change-ringing into this “ stony ” country will make sure and not too slow progress."

Tonally they are a grand ring, but, despite being anything but "too difficult to handle", do take some ringing to get the best out of them due to tower sway. Put the necessary effort into your ringing and you will be rewarded, is the best thing to say.

The bell that survived the great fire of Warwick was rehung. It was cast in 1671 by a Mr Henry Bagley at a cost of 25 shillings. It is believed that the bell originally was hung in the chapel and so separately from the tower bells which crashed to the ground in the fire. The bell loitered in the crypt for 75 years or so before it was cleaned and rehung above the main bells in 1976. It has a distinctive shape and its sound was described as harsh and rather unmusical and for a few years it was chimed as a service bell. When mobile phone aerials were installed in the bell chamber this old bell was removed and can now be seen once more in the crypt.

The chime barrel plays three verses at 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm every day. The tune changes each day and the tunes are;
The Easter Hymn (Sundays)
Home, Sweet Home (Mondays)
Thaxted (the tune for "I Vow to Thee My Country") (Tuesdays)
The Bluebells of Scotland  (Wednesdays)
The Minstrel Boy (Thursdays)
The Warwickshire Lads and Lasses (Fridays)
Last Rose of Summer (Saturdays)

An article about the church and bells appeared in The Ringing World of November 24th 1967:

(Click to enlarge)  

 There is one band for the two towers in Warwick.  Normally practice is here on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month and at St Nicholas on 1st and 3rd.  The band decide which tower to ring at when there is a 5th Wednesday. Sometimes church activities change the schedule, so you might wish to check before turning up - though the two towers are hardly distant from each other!

Details of the Bells

 1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   4-2-19  27.00"   1451.5Hz (F#-34c)
 2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   5-0-07  28.125"  1296.5Hz (E-29c)
 3 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   5-3-04  29.875"  1154.0Hz (D-31c)
 4 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   6-1-14  31.25"   1086.0Hz (C#-36c)
 5 Abraham Rudhall I, Gloucester   1702   7-1-20  33.75"    966.0Hz (B-39c)
 6 Abraham Rudhall I, Gloucester   1702   9-2-02  37.625"   864.0Hz (A-32c)
 7 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901  11-1-11  40.125"   769.0Hz (G-33c)
 8 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901  13-1-11  42.50"    723.0Hz (F#-40c)
 9 Abraham Rudhall I, Gloucester   1702  18-0-21  48.00"    647.5Hz (E-31c)
10 Thomas Mears II, London         1814  24-3-20  54.375"   576.0Hz (D-34c)

Photo Gallery

The Church - Looking East. Source: Mike Chester The Church - Looking west. Source: Mike Chester
The Church - Looking East The Church - Looking West
The Beauchamp Chapel. Source: Aidan MacRae Thomson The Crypt. Source: Aidan MacRae Thomson
The magnificent Beauchamp Chapel The massive piers in the Crypt 
The Church - Looking East. Source: Mike Chester warwick_mary_fire_small
The Choir and Sanctuary  The Fire Bell
The Bells - Tenor in the middle of the photo  

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