A NEW ERA BEGINS FOR MONTACUTE’s BELLS!
On Sunday 19 October 2014 Montacute’s bells rang out to call people to the wonderful Harvest Service. It was a special moment in the tower as Curtis Rendell joined his older Brother, Craig, father Ivan, and of course Grandfather and Tower Captain, Gordon, for the first time. How fantastic to have three generations of the family ringing together
Our original 5 bells were bought by the parish at the reformation. They were cast by Thomas Hey who had his foundry in the village at Smith’s row. Some of his bells still remain, one at Wraxhall near Cattistock in Dorset, another, recast by Taylors, at West Chinnock and one at Pitney near Somerton, The latter two bear the inscription “Sancte Katerina de Monte Acuto”. After Thomas Hey came the Wiseman family who were casting bells in the village from about 1585 to the mid 1600’s.
Their foundry was on the western side of Bishopston, approximately opposite the Working Men’s Club. In the last century a large quantity of black moulding sand was unearthed in the garden of the local chimney sweep, who it is said, mixed it with soot and sold it to the locals to put on their gardens. It is also rumoured that he followed the seam under the next door garden which eventually collapsed, which lead to an embarrassing neighbourly confrontation.
Details of the bells are as follows:- No.1 is modern, cast in 1901 by Mears & Stainbank, London; No.2 cast by Wiseman. “First I call to wake you all Anno Domini 1619 T.E.G.C.” No.3 cast by Wiseman “Geeve thankes to God Anno Domini 1610.” No. 4 cast by Wiseman “Hee that heareth mee to sound let him alwaies praise the Lord 1614.” No. 5 Recast in 1810 by Thomas Mears of London Probably originally a Wiseman bell.
No. 6 “Anno Domini 1733 William Knight bellfounder” of Closworth. The ring is in the key of “D” and the Tenor weighs 24cwt approx. (1.2 tonnes) The Treble is in memory of Queen Victoria and the 6 bells were hung in 1901 in an oak frame by Harry Stokes of Woodbury, Devon and re-hung again in 1948 on roller bearings in the same frame, by Mears & Stainbank of Whitechapel, London.
The Clock which strikes the hours on the Tenor bell possibly came from the Priory at the same time as the bells. It had no face until 1815 when John Baker, the local blacksmith, made and installed the mechanism. It was restored in 1974 by one Humphrey Hamlin, a Montacute man living in the same house as John Baker. The clock is still in use and was wound daily until Humphrey Hamlin and Gordon Rendell fitted winding gear in 2009.
RINGING IN 2014
Montacute’s ring of 6 bells is not often heard for Sunday services – but the team of ringers is working hard, learning and practising under Tower Captain, Gordon Rendell’s expert guidance. We are hoping to start ringing for Sunday services once our two young ringers, Craig and Curtis (Gordon’s grandsons) are strong enough and trained to handle the heavy bells
We are nearly there! The bells have rung out to welcome in the New Year and also for Bishop Peter’s visit. Listen out now for more regular ringing in the months ahead……
In the meantime we would welcome anyone interested in taking up ringing – just contact Gordon for details – 01935 822329
RIOT AT MONTACUTE.
One Club Feast Day in the 1830’s, Montacute witnessed a riot, which resulted in several men being imprisoned and one escaping to Australia.
It started when the vicar, the Reverend Albion Cox, had a dispute with the ringers and forbade them to ring on the Club Feast Day. The Montacute Club, or Friendly Society was one of many created throughout England after legalisation in 1793. These clubs were voluntary bodies whose members helped each other in times of sickness and old age, paying a small premium each week to form a sickness benefit fund.
Each Club had an annual Feast Day which consisted of a procession around the boundaries of the parish, calling in for cider at the farms on the way, before attending a special service in the parish church followed by a dinner, revelry and dancing. Montacute’s Club Day took place each year on the Monday following the first Sunday in Trinity.
However, since ringing was traditional on feast days, the bells being rung for many secular occasions, the ringers, under the foremanship of the village blacksmith George Baker, decided to oppose the vicar’s orders. On being made aware of this, the vicar took reprisal by cutting the bellropes so that the bells could not be rung. In retaliation, the ringers picketed the church and so prevented the Feast Club Day procession from entering. In truth, many of the members would probably have not entered anyway as most were related to, or sympathised with the ringers.
As a result of this, the vicar complained to the magistrates and a summons was issued for the arrest of the bell ringers. The local yeomanry under Captain Quantock, was organised to capture them, but although they searched the local countryside thoroughly for several weeks, they could not find all the men. It was said that despite the search, Baker crept home every night creeping out again in the early hours of the morning.
If local people knew of the whereabouts of the hunted men, they would not have told the yeomanry. It is said that Baker was once sitting outside the Odcombe Inn in the next village when the yeomanry was seen approaching. One of his friends immediately took off at a run along the road and across country with the yeomanry in pursuit. When they eventually caught him and on discovering it wasn’t Baker, they enquired as to why he had run. He explained that ‘he had been frightened by seeing so many soldiers.’ Of course, Baker escaped.
On another occasion, Baker was hiding in a friend’s house at Pye Corner at Odcombe, when the yeomanry raided the house. Although they thrust their swords through the ceiling during the search, Baker escaped injury by taking refuge on top of a wide beam.
Within six months of the order for arrest, all but two had been captured. Only Baker and a man called Mundy were still at large. Then Mundy, who had left the district for some time and was returning in the hope that the incident had been forgotten, was taken on the road between Ilchester and Yeovil. The yeomanry took
their captive to the Phelips’ Arms at Montacute and because he had been violent during his arrest, locked him in an upstairs room while they celebrated down below.
Baker, who was hiding in Montacute, when he heard of Munday’s capture, gave himself up to the yeomanry. While they were celebrating his arrest as well, Baker asked that he might go outside for a moment, giving his word that he would not escape. Baker had seen Mundy looking out of an upstairs window. On coming outside he told Mundy to jump and caught him in his arms then the two escaped in different directions. Even when Mundy’s escape was discovered by the yeomanry and they took up the hunt once again, they still did not suspect that Baker was involved.
As soon as Mundy escaped he was spotted in Middle Street by the local gossip, who asked “Have they let ‘ee off?” Munday said that they had indeed, and giving her a shilling for some cider, told her to go to the King’s Arms and promised to meet her there in a few minutes to tell her all about it. As soon as she had gone he ran off in another direction down to the sea at Bridport. There he met Captain William Langdon R.N., the son of a previous vicar of Montacute, who had a private yacht. They travelled first to New Zealand and then to Tasmania, where Captain Langdon had been instrumental in founding the settlement of Montacute near Hobart, where Mundy spent the rest of his days.
Meanwhile, all the other Montacute ringers were tried for their crimes. The sentences were low, just six months each in Ilchester Jail — because the vicar’s evidence was deemed unreliable. He was even reprimanded by the judge during the trial.
About the same time as the Bell Ringer’s riot, there was another riot in Montacute, this time involving a group of women led by George Baker’s wife.
At this time, bread made from white flour was a luxury and bakers were only allowed to sell it to the upper classes. The women of Montacute considered this an injustice, so one day they took possession of the baker’s van and sold his white bread to anyone who had the money to buy it. The baker complained to the authorities and the women were arrested, tried and sentenced to three months in Ilchester jail for their crimes.
GEORGE THE BLACKSMITH.
In 1869 it was George Baker who adapted the church clock to drive a set of hands and added the dial on the North side of the tower. Previously the clock had been installed in the present ringing chamber and only struck the hours, while the ringers at that time rang from a floor sited just above the Nave arch. It seems possible that the clock was originally at the priory, dissolved in 1539, and may have been bought by the parish at the same time as they bought the five priory bells. George also made many working models now on view in Montacute House; of a Carpenter’s shop, a Stone Mason’s yard and a Fairground, as well as a scale model of Huish Episcopi Church , now retained by his family and the magnificent 1/30th scale model of Montacute Church, complete with ringers and six bells that ring rounds.