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Handsworth* St Mary 8, 15-2-22 in F

Grid Reference 139/055903 Handsworth Church - Source: David Kelly
Postcode B20 2RW
Recording - front 6
Affiliation St Martin's Guild
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 1040-1100
Practice Wednesday 2000-2100 (Check first)


This church is historically in Staffordshire, but was, alongside a number of other areas, "absorbed" into Birmingham in 1911. It therefore geographically became part of Warwickshire, though never administered from Warwick. Handsworth became part of the West Midlands in 1974, as did many other places in Warwickshire.

The church dates from the twelfth century and the oldest parts of the present building date from around 1200. The building has been substantially enlarged and restored over time, with the addition of the Watt Chapel in 1826. Major work was undertaken during the church's restoration of 1876-8. The church is especially notable for the monuments and memorials to James Watt, Matthew Boulton and other leading figures of the industrial revolution.

There were "iiij belles" in 1553 and the number stayed the same until they were replaced by a ring of 6 cast by Joseph Smith of Edgbaston in 1701. Charles Lynam, in his book "The Church Bells of the County of Stafford" gives the inscriptions at this time:

In 1890 James Barwell of Birmingham recast the treble and added two further trebles to complete the octave. They were rehung in a new wooden frame. A peal was not long in forthcoming:

Bells News had a long series of articles about the state of bells in the country and this is Handworth's entry from February 14th 1903:

"Handsworth (Staffordshire). St. Mary. St. Martin’s Guild, Birmingham. Eight bells. Treble, 2nd and 3rd by Barwell, 1890; 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th by Smith, of Edgbaston, 1710. Tenor — date unknown— 12 cwt., diameter 3 ft. 5 in. Timber frame. Bells go well. Ropes good. Methods: Grandsire and Stedman. Sunday ringing: First in month, 10.15. Practice: Monday, 8."

By the time Taylors completely replaced the installation in 1955 the Barwell bells were still on their wooden headstocks, the others being on metal headstocks, possibly installed by J. E Groves, the local bellhanger, in the 1920s. The fourth had "a big chunk out of head" at this time. The back five had had their canons removed and been quarter turned. The Ringing World of 30th May 1919 gives the St Martin's Guild ringers' impression of the bells at the time, "The bells are a light ring o f eight, tenor about 12 cwt. in F sharp, and none too good. However, they go well, and were kept busy in various methods during the afternoon and evening."

This is a very good ring, similar in nature to Warwick, St Nicholas, which were cast two years later and with a very similar tenor weight and frequencies. They hang in a single level cast iron lowside frame.

The dedication was reported in The Ringing World of April 22nd 1955:

The bells of Handsworth Parish Church. Birmingham, were dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham on April 2nd following their recasting by, Messrs. Taylor and Co.
After the service an excellent touch of 408 Stedman Triples was rung by the following members of St. Martin’s Guild:—Alderman Paddon Smith 1, Henry H. Fearn 2, Albert Walker (conductor) 3, George E. Fearn 4, Edgar C. Shepherd 5, John Pinfold 6, Frank E. Haynes 7. Ralph G. Edwards 8.
It is interesting to note that Alderman Paddon Smith rang the bell upon which he rang his first peal, at the age of 15. Three of the bells were each given by ex-Lord Mayors of Birmingham.
A commemoration plaque in wrought bronze reads:—
* In thanksgiving to Almighty God for the wise and inspiring ministry of James Henry Linton. Bishop. Ordaiped Priest in 1904. Consecrated Bishop 1919. Bishop in Persia 1919- 1935. Assistant Bishop of Birmingham 1937- 1954. Rector of Handsworth 1935-1954.
'The eight bells in this tower were recast and rehung in a new frame by the gift of the parishioners and friends of this church and were dedicated by Leonard. Lord Bishop of Birmingham, 2nd April, 1955.
‘ K. B. Wood. Rector’s Warden. D. G. Vaughton, People’s Warden.’
The recast bells bear the following inscriptions:—
Treble.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this treble bell was recast by means of a gift from Alderman A. Paddon Smith, J.P., Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1950-51. In loving memory of his wife, Nancy Earland.’
Second.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this bell was recast by means of a gift from Councillor William Semple and Mrs. Amy C. Semple. In memory of their son, Sgt. William J. R. Semple, R.A.F., 1924-1945, who did not return.’
Third.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this bell was recast by means of a gift from Horace H. Lowe, Esq., and Mrs. Ada E. Lowe. In memory of their son, Donald Roderic, R.N.', age 21, lost at sea 9th August, 1942.’
Fourth.—' In thankfulness to Almighty God this bell was recast on behalf of the Bells Restoration Committee in appreciation of the generous support given to their appeal by the parishioners and friends of this church. George Griffith. Leon Hudson. Harry Mason. Dorothy Thomas. Harold Thompson. Ian Thompson. Albert Tims. Denis Vaughton, Kenneth Wood, Wardens. 1955.’
Fifth.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this bell was recast through the generosity of Councillor F. T. D. Hall and Mrs. Irene Hall, J.P. In memory of their respective fathers.’
Sixth.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this bell was recast by means of a gift from Alderman G. H. W. Griffith, J.P., Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1953-54. In loving memory of his wife, Gladys Winifred, Lady Mayoress of Birmingham, who died 31st January, 1954.’ Seventh.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this bell was recast through the generosity of Alderman Percy W. Cox, J.P. In loving memory of his parents, Harry Cox and Fanny Elizabeth Cox.’
Tenor.—‘ In thankfulness to Almighty God this tenor bell was recast by means of a gift from Sir Ernest R. Canning, D.L., J.P., Lord Mayor of Birmingham, 1937-38. In memory of his mother.’

The first peal on the new bells was rung the following year:

(Most of the above bell information is quoted directly (with permission) from the research notes of Chris Pickford)

Details of the Bells

1. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955   4-1-12  26.06"   1404.0Hz (F+9c)
2. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955   4-3-24  27.25"   1323.0Hz (E+6c)
3. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955   5-0-04  28.00"   1176.0Hz (D+2c)
4. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955   5-1-26  30.375"  1044.0Hz (C-4c)
5. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955   6-0-26  32.50"    928.0Hz (Bb-8c)
6. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955   7-3-20  35.00"    875.0Hz (A-10c)
7. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955  11-0-05  39.125"   778.5Hz (G-12c)
8. John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1955  15-2-22  43.875"   692.0Hz (F-16c)

Details of the Previous Bells

1. James Barwell, Birmingham       1890   4-3-10  26.75"   1553.5Hz (G-16c)
2. James Barwell, Birmingham       1890   4-3-24  27.675"  1439.0Hz (F#-49c)
3. James Barwell, Birmingham       1890   4-3-08  28.125"  1299.0Hz (E-26c)
4. Joseph Smith, Edgbaston         1701   5-2-16  30.25"   Unknown - bell broken 
5. Joseph Smith, Edgbaston         1701   6-1-13  32.50"   1023.0Hz (C-39c)
6. Joseph Smith, Edgbaston         1701   7-0-25  33.75"    976.0Hz (B-21c)
7. Joseph Smith, Edgbaston         1701   9-2-14  37.50"    867.0Hz (A-26c)
8. Joseph Smith, Edgbaston         1701  11-0-10  40.375"   755.0Hz (G-65c)


Photo Gallery

The Church - Looking East. Source: Church Website James Watts' Tomb. Source: Church Website Matthew Boulton's Memorial. Source: Church Website
The Church - Looking East The Statue on James Watts' Tomb Matthew Boulton's Memorial

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