St Winnow Bell and Tower project

Why the project?

For centuries, the peal of St Winnow bells has been a part of our Cornish heritage, uniting our local Parishes in faith, solidarity and hope.

Sounding joyfully across the nearby River Fowey for worship, celebration and remembrance, the bells commemorate for many people at important milestones in their lives. A deep-rooted community focal point, our bells provide an opportunity for inclusive fellowship and learning ancient skills. Bell ringers of all ages come to St Winnow, having fun and making music in our rural surroundings.

Sadly, essential repair works to the bells and tower had silenced their music and therefore an appeal and project was launched in May 2016 to remedy this.

What have we done?

Works were completed in three stages - covering internal tower repairs, conservation of the existing bells, preparation of a new ringing floor and bell frame and commissioning, installation and hanging of ten new bells lower down in the tower chamber.

The existing bells are very old and heavy, difficult to ring and were stressing the tower when rung, leading to the high possibility of future costs. The new, lighter bells are more cost effective, with less stress to the tower structure, they have an improved ring and being at a lower level will create less movement and swing. The lighter bells are more manageable and accessible for all ages.

The existing six bells have been preserved and remain in place at their higher level for historical and conservation value, with chiming apparatus.

Our architect, and contractor Ships Carpentry, started in May 2016 by preparing the tower by removing unsafe structures, cleaning back hundreds of years of accumulated debris and then working to make our tower good again. Please see the links below to some photos which followed our contractor’s progress:

Of the three phases of planned works, the pre-phase and phase one completed in 2016, with phase two completed in March 2017. Phase three commenced in May 2017 and completed August 2017.

Community support and ten bells!

Our Parochial Church Council (PCC) are very grateful to the support of The Friends of St Winnow Parish Church, our ringers, Truro Diocese and all the donors and sponsors who have contributed to date. We would like to acknowledge thanks to the charitable trusts and external grant funding sources who have championed our cause, including SITA Cornwall Trust Limited, Cornwall Historic Churches Trust, Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers, The Viscountess Boyd Charitable Trust, the Rural Churches Repair Fund and Sherrard Trust, the Central Council Bell Restoration Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Marris Charitable Trust.

In 1714, the parishioners of St Winnow had a vision of installing five bells at a time when most churches had two or three bells. Some three hundred years on, we had hoped to install six new bells as part of our appeal (given we have six existing bells). We dared to believe in funding for eight. However, our mission and vision of involving and growing our church in our community led to a further two bell sponsors coming forward, who were also pastorally sensitive to the appeal, and the PCC subsequently resolved to accept a final peal of ten bells to be installed (which are conformable with the strength of the tower and which the new frame also allowed for).

All ten bells were sponsored. Ten bells are the most musical combination for any peal of church bells and place St Winnow Parish Church in a unique position. They are the only ring of ten concurrently cast bells in Cornwall and the only ring of ten in South East Cornwall.

Casting of our bells took place in February 2017 by Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry in Holland, following which they were then transported to Nicholson Engineering Ltd, Bridport, who originally designed them and subsequently made their component parts (frame, headstocks, wheels, etc.). Our bells were delivered to St Winnow Parish Church on Friday, 4th August 2017. On 6th August 2017, at our Parish Eucharist service, The Bishop of St Germans, The Rt Revd. Chris Goldsmith consecrated our ten new bells and rededicated our re-furbished tower and our conserved old bells, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to view our ten new bells, which were on display in the Lady Chapel of our church for the afternoon. Our Project Architect also put together and gave a presentation on the works that have taken place. Installation of our new bell frame and the bells themselves took place in the week beginning 7th August 2017.

On Bank Holiday Monday, 28th August 2017, we held our annual 'St Winnow Way' walk - a pilgrimage between four churches within our Benefice - commencing at Bradoc with a picnic and ringing, onto Boconnoc, to St Nectan's where the mini ring had been set up, finishing at St Winnow where the first public ringing of our lovely ten new bells took place. We could not have wished for better weather or for greater support and for all of our visitors. So many thanks go to so many people and groups who helped bring the day into fruition. We even featured on BBC Spotlight! Every contribution in donation or deed to date has been so valued and appreciated. The seed of a remarakable and creative vision turning into an audible and visible reality is a marvellous thing to witness and we are so proud of our journey and community spirit, far and wide. Proud to have been a part of it. However, this is not the end of our project. But, perhaps more excitingly, the beginnings of something much further extending. At St Winnow we talk about the stones of our building and the people being the living stones. The buildings of our Benefice simply came alive at Bank Holiday, packed to the rafters, People of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs; no boundaries. Simply a sense of togetherness, achievement, community bonding, fellowship, comradeship, reuniting; the hope and inspiration for this to continue. To keep our heritage alive. Surely the greatest achievement and gift. Priceless. Thank you all!

At our Dedication and Homecoming Service on Sunday, 19th November 2017, we welcomed back old friends to whom St Winnow holds a special place in their hearts and dedicated the chimes of the old historic bells. You can read the sermon from this service here.

Our New Bells Diameter Weight
Tenor 28” 3-3-5 D
Ninth 25 3/8” 3-0-1 E
Eighth 23” 2-1-14 F#
Seventh 22” 2-1-1 G
Sixth 20 ½” 2-0-3 A
Fifth 19 ½” 1-3-15 B
Fourth 18 5/8 ” 1-2-23 C#<
Third 18 1/8” 1-2-19 D
Second 17 ½” 1-2-27 E
Treble 17” 1-2-15 F#

What has been achieved?

Our tower is now safe and secure and the bells of St Winnow reinstated for future generations.

The new bells allow for the traditional peal at events, special to many of us at important times in our lives, such as weddings, christenings and key Christian dates such as Christmas, Easter and major festivals.

Today we recognise the importance of involving our ringers in the future of our church and community. The new bells have revitalised St Winnow, supporting our young people who will progress to be our main bell ringers of the future. The lighter bells particularly aid with teaching our younger ringers (being capable of being rung by year five and six pupils), create a ring that is easy and interesting, and are easier for our elderly generation.

Plans are already in hand to extend our teaching programme to other schools in the area, plus the cubs, scouts and guides under the tutelage of Robert Pearce, our enthusiastic Tower Captain and ringing expert, who has also created a bell ringing badge for the cubs and scouts groups in the area.