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SELLY OAK* St Mary 8, 12-1-17 in G

Grid Reference 139/038822 Selly Oak Church - Source: M Chester
Postocde B29 6NG
Affilitations St Martin's Guild &
Worcestershire & Districts Assoc
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 0915-1000
Practice Wednesday 1945-2100


A rather peripatetic church! Historically in Worcestershire it moved into Birmingham in 1911 and hence became part of Warwickshire, but has never been administered from County Hall. Selly Oak used to be in the Parish of Northfield, but with the large increase in population of Victorian times it was decided that the new parish of St Mary, Selly Oak should be established and a church built. The land was given by Mr Joseph Frederick Ledsham, then the Lord of the Manor, who laid the foundation stone on 12 July 1860. The construction of St Mary's took just over a year, and the church was consecrated on 12 September 1861. The architect was Mr Edward Holmes. The building is in a Victorian version of the Decorated Gothic style.

One bell bell was placed in the tower in 1860 to which a tenor and four trebles were added in 1864. The tenor was apparently recast in 1884. To produce a heavier ring of 8 a tenor and treble were added and the fourth recast in 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. All this work was undertaken by Warners. They were hung in a two-tier frame, with bells 2 and 6 on top. The first peal was rung shortly afterwards:

The following appear in Bell News on July 16th 1904:

"Selly Oak (Worcestershire). St. Mary. Eight bells. All by Warner. The two trebles 1887 ; date of rest not given. Tenor 12 cwt., diameter 3 ft. .5 in. Timber frame. Bells go well. Ropes new 1887, bad. Methods: Grandsire and Treble Bob. No Sunday ringing. Practice: Thursday, 7.30."

These became unsafe by 1922. Later funds were raised and a faculty issued to rehang the bells in a new frame with new fittings.  This appeared in The Ringing World of November 20th 1931.  Note that there is no mention of an intention to recast the bells.

This was changed to a full recasting of the ring shortly afterwards when it was clear that funds were available for this. The bells were recast in 1931-2, when the tower was refurbished. The second has, at some point, been quarter turned. The re-dedication of the bells was reported in The Ringing World of April 1st 1932:

On Saturday, March 19th, the recast peal of eight bells at St. Mary’s Church, Selly Oak, Birmingham, was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham. It was certainly one of the great occasions in the history of this half-country, half-manufacturing suburb of the Midland metropolis.
The original bells, while not what one would call objectionable, were of poor tone. They were cast at various tinies, viz., one (the old 6th) in 1861, five added in 1864 making a peal of six, while in 1887 the peal was increased to eight by the addition of a new treble and tenor, the fifth being recast to bring it within the chromatic scale of the enlarged peal.
In 1922 it was found that it would be unsafe to ring the bells as they were then hung, and as the church had raised over £2,000 for rebuilding part of the spire and other work on the outer fabric the rehanging of the bells was regarded as a luxury. However, after many set-backs, the present appeal for funds for the bells and also for the provision of a building for the use of the juvenile organisations of the parish was issued, with the result that a contract was placed with Messrs. Gillett and Johnston, Ltd., bell founders, of Croydon, for the old bells to be recast and rehung in a new iron frame.
The parish had been without the ringing of its bells for nearly ten years, and had really forgotten what bells sounded like. Enthusiasm had been growing ever since the appeal was launched last May, and interest quickened as the day and time of the dedication drew near.
At the service there were present many old parishioners who had either left the district or had lapsed during the last ten years, and who had had their affection for their old church revived in the knowledge that the hells were to ring out again. There were also a large number of visiting ringers present from Stourbridge. Worcester, Burton-on-Trent, Coventry, etc., representing the Worcestershire Association, St. Martin's Guild for the Diocese of Birmingham, the Warwickshire Guild and the Midland Counties Association.
The Vicar, the Rev. R. P. Steer conducted the dedication service, the Rev. Father Hughes (the Vicar of St. Wulstan’s, a daughter parish of Selly Oak) acting as Bishop’s Chaplain. Immediately after the dedication by the Lord Bishop, a short ' touch ' of Stedman Triples was rung while the Bishop's procession returned to the chancel, the ringers being W. B. Cartwright (conductor) 1, J, F. Atkins 2, C. Skidmore (Branch Ringing Master of the Worcestershire Association) 3, W. Mumford 4, J. E. Eaton 5, C. H. Stanley 6, S. Grove 7, A. Chambers 8.
When the bells rang out for the first time for ten years one almost heard a sob of relief from that large congregation. There were certainly a few handkerchiefs in evidence among some of the older parishioners.
And what a peal! Surely the finest product of the bell founder's art! The ‘ go ’ was excellent, but the tone was glorious.
The weight of the new tenor is 12 cwt. 1 qr. 17 lb., in G, the total weight of the peal being 51½ cwt.
After the service the bells were open for the visiting ringers, who made full use of the opportunity; The methods rung ranged from Grandsire Triples to Bristol and London Surprise.
Tea was provided in the People's Hall for about 65 ringers. When tea was finished, the Vicar said how glad he was to welcome so many visiting ringers, and to thank them for attending and giving their support to the dedication servicc. The (the Vicar) also said he particularly wished to thank Mr. Cyril Johnston for producing such a fine peal of bells and for all he had done in connection with the matter.—Mr. Johston suitably responded.
Afterwards there was further ringing, followed by a social evening at the Oak Inn, 'Selly Oak. A very pleasant time was spent, and the songs of Messrs. W. C. Dowding, A. S. Downes and Harry Withers were very much enjoyed, as also was the tapping on the piano of a touch of Stedman Triples (conducted by Mr. H. Withers) and two courses of Duffield Major by Mr. Maurice Swinfield, not forgetting the tunes on the handbells by Messrs. H. Withers, S. Grove and A. Walker, and the ringing by Messrs. Walker, Withers, Norman, Perrins, Neal, Morris and Cartwright. Mr. Arthur Fellows, the deputy carilloimeur, of Bournville, was at the piano, and the proceedings were compered by the Selly Oak Ringing Vister. Mr. Wm. B. Cartwright. As all good things have to come to an end, so ten o'clock came all too soon, and the singing of ‘ God Save the King ' brought a very happy gathering to a. close."

The first peal was not long in being rung:

The church was the "Front Page Tower" in The Ringing World of February 27th 1976:

The tower is in the Diocese of Birmingham and therefore part of the St Martins Guild "territory", but has retained its links with the "Worcesters", as part of the "and Districts" bit of the title!

Details of the Bells

1 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   4-0-07  25.50"   1548.0Hz (G-22c)
2 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   4-0-18  26.00"   1451.0Hz (F#-34c)
3 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   4-0-24  27.125"  1290.0Hz (E-37c)
4 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   4-3-20  28.75"   1161.0Hz (D-20c)
5 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   5-3-15  31.125"  1032.0Hz (C-24c)
6 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   6-2-18  33.00"    968.0Hz (B-35c)
7 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932   9-0-21  36.50"    871.0Hz (A-18c)
8 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon  1932  12-1-17  40.50"    774.0Hz (G-22c)

Details of the Warner Ring

1 John Warner & Sons, London   1887   4-1-09  26.25"
2 John Warner & Sons, London   1864   4-1-23  27.00"
3 John Warner & Sons, London   1864   4-1-20  27.50"
4 John Warner & Sons, London   1864   4-2-26  29.00"
5 John Warner & Sons, London   1887   6-0-08  32.00"
6 John Warner & Sons, London   1860   7-0-04  34.00"
7 John Warner & Sons, London   1884   9-3-11  38.00"
8 John Warner & Sons, London   1887  11-2-15  41.00" in F sharp
(scrapping weights)

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