Wymondham Abbey's celebration of the bells
Bell Ringers from across the Diocese of Norwich are preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the installation of 10 bells at Wymondham Abbey on July 30
The Wymondham Bell Ringers have invited teams from the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers to take part in a ringing competition on Sunday, July 30. Five teams, including one from Wymondham, are due to take part. The competition will run from 2.15pm to 4.45pm.
July 1967 saw the culmination of a huge project, begun a few years earlier, with major repairs to the massive West Tower.
The eight old bells had become difficult to ring, with many of the fittings very worn. A bold decision was made to re-cast the eight bells and to add two new ones. Work was done by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, makers of famous bells, such as Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.
Abbey Ringing Master Hayden Charles said: “It is a real privilege to have one of the finest-sounding rings of bells in the Diocese. We think that the Whitechapel foundry may have used them as a prototype for Westminster Abbey bells, cast a few years later.”
In 1731 there was an advertisement for a competition at Wymondham when there were just five bells. The landlord of the White Swan gave a prize of five pairs of gloves for the winning team, but stipulated: “Note, the Gloves are to be RUNG for, not sworn for”. In those days gambling on the results of bell competitions was common and unruly crowds could be attracted.
Hayden added: “These days ringing competitions are very much social occasions, so we are pleased to invite ringers to celebrate – and no gloves for the winners, just certificates.”
Wymondham Abbey was founded in 1107, and dissolved as an Abbey on the orders of Henry VIII in 1538. The church was spared, and continues as the town’s Parish Church.
Wymondham Abbey Bells: In 1903 the five old bells which had not been rung for about 100 years were augmented to eight. Bells one two and three were new, and the fifth bell was re-cast. In 1967 all eight bells were re-cast and two new bells added. The 1903 wooden frame, made by Day of Eye, was lowered fourteen feet in 1967 and extended to accommodate the extra bells. The smallest bell in the tower weighs about a quarter of a ton, and the largest is over one and a quarter tons, or about the same as a medium-sized family car.
For more information about the Abbey’s bells see www.wymondhambells.org.uk and Wymondham Abbey www.wymondhamabbey.org.uk, t 01953 607062.
Pictured: A recast bell in 1967, and the bellringers today
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