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BRAILES St George 6, 29-0-19 in C

Grid Reference 151/315393 Brailes Church - Source: Mike Chester
Postcode OX15 5HU
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals None
Sunday Check
Practice Wednesday  1930-2100


Set in a very pretty part of South Warwickshire, this large church dominates the local area. The church is located in Lower Brailes. This "Cotswold Church" is nothing short of stunning.  This wonderful building is very much worth visiting, even if it is not for ringing the bells in the tower.

The bell tower is 120 feet (37 m) high and has the third-heaviest ring of six bells Only St Buryan and Queen Camel are known to have heavier tenored rings of 6. It is the largest church in the Kington Hundred and is locally called the "Cathedral of the Feldon". Feldon is an Old English word meaning "the land from which the timber has been cleared away". Excavations in 1879 beneath the arcade between the nave and south aisle are said to have found 12th century foundations. The south aisle was added in about 1280 and is the oldest part of the present church building. The western part of the south arcade was added in about 1330–40 when the nave seems to have been extended westwards to its present length of six bays. At the same time the clerestory was added to the nave and the chancel was rebuilt[2] with its present Decorated Gothic east window. The north aisle may also be 14th century, but rebuildings and alterations in 1649 and 1879 have obscured the evidence for its original appearance. In the 15th century an additional window was inserted in the south wall of the chancel. St George's is a Grade I listed building.

The tenor is the heaviest bell ever cast by Blews of Birmingham and it must be one of their best. Blews said that it weighed 31-0-22 on delivery. The canons have been removed from all of the bells. Up some point in the 19th century these bells were rung from the ground floor, taking 15 men to ring them! There is a sanctus bell in the gable over the chancel arch.

The third bell, a recast of a Matthew Bagley bell that was cast in Chipping Norton in 1752, has a medallion depicting St George and the Dragon cast into it. The old tenor was probably cast in the early 15th century in London by John Bird. It had been long cracked prior to recasting. The fourth is a recast of a 1671 bell by Richard Keene of Woodstock. At the 1877 restoration the bells were rehung in a new oak frame with new fittings by Hooper and Stokes of Woodbury, Devon at a cost of £200. This work was never very satisfactory and the bells were again rehung in 1894, with new fittings, by Frederick White of Appleton.

Chris Pickford says of the Blews tenor bell: "No founder in the 1870’s made a habit of reproducing old inscriptions on new bells either in facsimile or in modern lettering, but Blews was one of the first to produce a successful copy......  At Brailes in 1877, Blews recast the heavy mediaeval tenor bell which had been cracked and useless for many years. Here the old inscription and markings were faithfully reproduced in facsimile on the new bell, and Blews added a further inscription in his own distinctive Gothic lettering on the waist. This huge bell, which weighed 31-0-23 when it left the foundry, survives as a magnificent testament to the work of a firm which took pride in the ideals of craftsmanship so popular in the "High Victorian” period."

The inscriptions are given in Tilley and Walters' book, "The Church Bells of Warwickshire"

There is an amusing report of a visit to ring here in the Bell News of September 3rd 1910:

On Saturday, July 16th, short touches were rung on the heavy ring of six bells at the parish church by ringers from Rugby and Warwick, who were met by Mr. W. Large, of Todenham. The tenor is reputed to weigh 37 cwt. or more, but this is incorrect by her measurements, which are as follows: Diameter 58 inches, thickness of soundbow 3¾ inches, which makes her weight 31 cwt. per calculation. The bell is very thin. The tone of the ring is magnificent. The bells go badly, and the tenor is never rung single handed. However it will be noticed that the giant strength from Rugby and Warwick made her go singlehanded in the touches rung. Mr. George rung her with a determination, but she nearly did for him in spite of bis divesting himself of nearly all his clothes to ring her. J. G. will have to feed himself up on “ Oxo ’’ before he rings his 720 Bob Minor on the Brailes tenor. The visitors stood as follows in the touches. 120 Grandsire Doubles. A. L. Coleman, W. G. Dickins, A. J. Hessian, T. Male, W. Large, J. George. 120 Stedman Doubles. T. Male, W. G. Dickins, W. Large, A. J. Hessian, J. George. W. Male. 180 Bob Minor. W. Male, W. G. Dickins, T. Male, A, J . Hessian, W. Large, J . George."

The bells and tower appear to have been inspected by The Central Council Towers & Belfries Committee in 1931/2. In their annual report, reproduced in The Ringing World of June 10th 1932 it is reported:

"Another tower which lie had inspected was Brailes, in Warwickshire, where there was a heavy peal of six, with a tenor of about 31 or 32 cwt., hung very high from the ground. The tower was split in many directions; one of the buttresses was free from tho tower for about 30ft., with a crack of ¾ of an inch between tho buttress and the tower. It was not possible to measure the movement of the tower, but the top of the flagstaff was wagging at least 18 inches, or probably more, when the bells were rung. There were three things that might be done. At the present time the bells swung cast and west, which was much the sliffest way of the tower, so that one could not improve matters very much by altering tho direction in which they swung. The bells could be slightly tucked up in the headstocks, which would reduce the horizontal forces, and the ropes could be altered. He suggested that the fifth bell should be roped on the other side of the wheel to be on the same side as the tenor. The only other thing was to drop the bells in the tower. That was not very easy, because there was a clock room in the way, but they could be dropped about 15ft, and it would be possible by that means to reduce the movement of the tower at the point where the frame was attached by about 44 per cent., while at the level of the roof the movement would be rcduced by 28 per cent. In this tower there was a good deal of movement of the frame as well as the tower, and he worked out one figure which might be of interest as being typical of a good many cases. The horizontal force due to the tenor swinging was slightly over three tons, and if they assumed that the movement of the frame and tower combined was one-quarter of an inch, and it wras certainly all that, the energy lost in the first half of the revolution of the bell would be 73 foot-pounds. That, of course, had to be provided by the ringer. In other words, if he could only pull his sallie a foot (he ought to be able to pull it more) he had got to pull 731bs. harder than he need do if the tower and frame were stiff. That extra work he did might, or might not, be given back to the bell in the second half of its revolution. If not, the ringer would have to provide another 73 foot-pounds. Or it might be given to another bell, for instance the fifth, and therefore the work put in by the tenor man might be fighting against that supplied by the ringer of the fifth. The latter might have to work equally hard to keep his bell up, because the tenor man was knocking it down. He quoted that to show the desirability of having the most rigid possible frame and, if possible, the most rigid tower."

Even though the bells were again rehung, (by Taylors in a two-tier frame lower in the tower in 1957-  the fourth bell above the others), and also that this frame was further strengthened in 1993, these bells are not the easiest to ring, (note the weight of the treble). Outing organisers should therefore consider not bringing new learners here, waiting until they are more experience instead.  Keeping things simple will allow you to appreciate the bells.

Bells 1, 2, 5 & 6 are "listed". All the bells have had their canons removed. These bells have never been peals, and are unlikely to be pealed at any time in the future.

The church was featured in The ringing World in May of 1971 as part o the Central Council's visit to the area - among other things, it details the bells' inscriptions:

The tower entrance is inside the church, enter by the south door, and there is on-street parking nearby.

Details of the Bells

1 Richard Purdue, Banbury        1624   9-2-20  37.50"  870.0Hz (A-20c)
2 William Chamberlain, London   c1440  10-3-16  39.75"  778.0Hz (G-13c)
3 William Blews, Birmingham      1877  13-3-04  43.50"  692.0Hz (F-16c)
4 Mears and Stainbank, London    1900  15-2-16  46.00"  649.0hz (E-27c)
5 Richard Keene, Woodstock       1671  22-2-06  51.00"  590.0Hz (D+8c)
6 William Blews, Birmingham      1877  29-0-19  58.00"  525.0Hz (C+6c)

Photo Gallery

The Church Looking East. Source: Mike Chester The Sanctuary. Source: Mike Chester
 The Church - Looking East  The Sanctuary
The Church Looking West. Source: Mike Chester The Model Church. Source: Mike Chester
The Church - Looking West A Model of the Church - Made of Matchsticks
The Church Handbell. Source: Mike Chester The Ringing Chamber. Source: Mike Chester
The Church/Parish Handbell The Ringing Chamber

Plan of the Church. Source: British History Online

Plan of the Church
The Chime Barrel in Use  

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