Chapter 5 - The Association's Bells

The Association’s Bells

NB : A number of new rings and augmentations have been mentioned previous sections but for completeness they are repeated here with additional detail.

In the year of the Association’s formation, 1893, there was just one ring of ten at St John’s Cardiff, which had just been completed the same year by adding a treble and tenor to the old eight and replacing of two of the other bells. The next ten followed in 1913 with the recasting of the eight at Newport Cathedral, which themselves had only been augmented from six in 1898. This was followed in 1919 by the addition of two trebles at Llandaff, whose bells have since been recast and augmented. Abergavenny’s eight were recast and augmented to ten in 1947. The most recent ten was formed at Chepstow in 1959 by adding two trebles to the Evans ring, whose back 6 were cast in 1735 and augmented to eight in 1749.

There are only two twelves in the Association’s area, at the two Diocesan Cathedrals, and both also have a flat sixth giving an additional light eight. Newport received its new trebles in 1939 when the existing front three were also recast. The flat sixth was added in 1988 as a memorial gift from Bill Thompsett. Llandaff had to wait until 1992 when the ambitious project to recast the old ten finally came to fruition. The flat sixth here was one of the new bells.

Augmentations from six to eight are all mostly pre-war : Llangybi (1907 by adding a treble and tenor), Marshfield (1910), Machen (1911), Peterstone Wentloog (1913), Bedwellty (1920 to a six cast in1895), Llantrisant (1926), Newton Nottage (1935 to a six cast in 1905), Llanfrechfa (1937) and Llanarth (1981). In addition a number of rings have been recast to form new eights : Bridgend (1904), Usk (1925), Penarth (1935), Blaenavon (1948), Caerleon (1953, originally made six from eight in 1886) and Llantilio Crossenny (1978, formerly a six which were recast in 1977).

A number of brand new eights also appeared : Newport All Saints (1901, now at Bassaleg), Radyr (1910), Caerphilly (1911), Pontypridd (1913), Ebbw Vale (1937). Mention should also be made of Merthyr Tydfil and Aberavon, both of which were new cast in 1893, and Mynyddislwyn, where five of the former chime from Abercarn, which had been rescued and put in store by the Association in 1989, were installed together with three new bells as a ringing peal in 2000 as part of a Millennium restoration of the whole church. Finally, although not new as such, the eight at Bassaleg are new in the tower, having been removed from Newport All Saints in 1993 and re-installed at Bassaleg in 1998. A further eight appeared in 2007, an augmentation of the restored six at Michaelston-y-Fedw.

Complete new rings of six appeared as follows : Bedwellty (1895, now 8), Baglan (1899), Newton Nottage (1905, now 8) QUERY, Whitchurch (1909, now 8) QUERY, St Athan (1918) QUERY, St Brides Major (1919) QUERY. Pendoylan can also be considered in this group, being cast as a four in 1892 by Carr of Smethwick and augmented to six only the following year by the same founder.

Other sixes have been created by recasting or augmentation as follows : Cadoxton (1898, 3 to 6), Llanblethian (1907, 5 to 6), Llantwit Major (1908, old 6 recast), Rumney (1909, 5 to 6), Shirenewton (1918, 5 to 6), Penhow (1927, 5 to 6), Nash (1934, 5 to 6), Porthkerry (1950, 4 to 6), Sully (1961, 5 to 6), Llantarnam (1973, old 6 recast), Llanishen (1978, old 6 recast), Dingestow (4 to 5 in 1914, treble added 1991), Pen Y Fai (1992, 5 to 6 ), Redwick (1994, 5 to 6), Llantilio Pertholey (4 to 6 in 1994), St Hilary (3 to 5 in 1906, treble added 1999), Llancarfan (1999, unringable 4 recast), Trellech (2000, 3 to 6) and Laleston (2002, 4 to 6). Pen Y Fai should be particularly mentioned, the old 5 having been the quarter and hour notes of a clock chime, and hence a six with the 4th missing.

Two other "new" rings of six have also been created in recent years; Llanedeyrn, where the Evans five of 1766, which had not been rung in living memory, were restored and augmented in 1994; and Michaelston-y-Fedw whose 1781/2 Thomas Rudhall six, which appeared never to have been rung, despite having all the necessary fittings, were restored in 2005. Both of these restorations were funded through bequests.

Not many rings of five remain and of these a number are no longer ringable. Of those which can still be rung, Llanwern date from 1710 but were restored with some recasting in 1991, Llanover were five in 1784 but recast in 1905, while Tregaer are the result of augmentation from 4 in 1921.

Work specifically intended to commemorate the Millennium was carried out at Bassaleg (see above), Caerleon (essential maintenance), Cardiff (rehung), Coity (essential maintenance), Llancarfan (see above), Llanfrechfa (rehung), Mynyddislwyn (see above), St Hilary (see above), St Mary Hill (4 - rehung in new frame), Shirenewton (6 - rehung in new frame, two bells replaced), Tredunnock (unringable 6 rehung), Trellech (see above) and Wolvesnewton (3 - rehung). Places in bold type received Ringing in the Millennium funding and Trellech received Heritage Lottery funding. At St Hilary, where the four bells were previously unringable, all the on-site work was provided by local volunteer labour.

As well as gaining new rings, a small number have been lost. The six previously at St Fagans have been sold and the unusual-toned steel six (by Naylor Vickers, 1866) from Bassaleg are now in a museum following their replacement by the eight from Newport All Saints. A happier fate befell the Taylor eight from Llanbradach, new in 1911. Following closure of the church due to mining subsidence, these lovely bells are now in a new home, since 1988, at Kingstone, Herefordshire, where they are regularly pealed.

Although not physically lost, the eight at Peterstone Wentloog are no longer in use following closure and deconsecration of the church in 1999 and its subsequent transfer into private hands. The Association made a valiant attempt to get Listed Building consent here but by 2002 this was known to have failed. These bells were last rung (as far as is known) on Jubilee Day 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, following an approach to the Association by the church leaseholder following a representations by the local people. The current state of these bells is unknown.

A number of other bells are currently in the Association’s care. The 8 cwt chime of six of 1898 from Mountain Ash, whose tower had structural problems, have been purchased (using BRF money) and are currently in store while a new home is actively being sought for them. The single bell with full ringing fittings from St James’ Cardiff was removed by Association volunteers in August 2006 and is also in storage. It is hoped that a new home for it has already been found within the Diocese. This is a modern Taylor bell (1901) and of good tone, weighing about 10cwt. A number of other small bells are also in storage having rescued from various places at no cost to the Association.

It remains to mention ringing peals which are no longer ringable. Most of these are older fives and sixes in small villages where the chances of raising the large sums of money needed for restoration are slim. LIST.

The bells themselves of a number of rings are of particular interest. Monmouth are a complete eight of 1706 by Abraham Rudhall I and Cowbridge are the only complete eight (1722) by Evan Evans I. Both are lovely full-toned rings. Coity have the only complete six by the brothers Evan II and William E Evans (1726). Trevethin are unusual for this area, being a complete eight by Gillett & Co (1881); Gillett bells from any period of this foundry are not that common in S Wales. Nash also has four bells cast by John Kingston, a Bridgwater founder, in 1819.

From the mid 60s and into the 70s the Whitechapel foundry was producing rings with tenors of the order of 3cwt. There are several within the Association’s area : Llantarnam, Llanishen and Llantilio Crossenny. More recently Llancarfan can be added to this list (1999) although the tenor here, at 5cwt, is a little heavier.

On the downside it is sad to report that several rings are at present no longer usable. First and foremost is the loss of the light eight at Peterstone Wentloog, which are now in private ownership despite the best efforts of the Association to rescue them, while Penmark bells are in desperate need of rehanging.

In 1993 it was proposed to set up a Repair and Maintenance Committee and this was done, under the chairmanship of Jim Goodfellow. Unfortunately, new Health & Safety legislation introduced in 1996 imposed so many restrictions that it was decided the Committee was no longer viable and it was disbanded.

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