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St. Helen, Abingdon, Oxon
Old North Berks branch of the ODG
St. Helen, Abingdon tower
St. Helen, Abingdon from across the
River Thames İKMC 28 Nov 2003
Dedication:St. Helen, Abingdon

Tower Correspondent: Tim Pett, 20 St Amand Drive, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 5QR Tel: 01235 526033

Service Ringing: Sun 9.15

Practice night: Tue 7.30pm (1,3,5)

Website: www.abingdonbells.org.uk

The Bells (10) 16-0-0

Access to ringing chamber: Is via a small door in the base of the tower, on the N side. Go through the short corridor, turn left up right handed spiral staircase (35 steps), brick lining to walls, stone (concrete?) steps in good condition.

Ringing chamber is large, plenty of space for the 10 bell ropes. There is a permanent platform for bells 9 and 10. The clock pendulum has stays supporting a protecting tray beneath it, presumably to protect it from flying ropes. The simulator PC is on a window sill.

The Bells A complete new ring of 10 was cast to Gillett & Johnston profiles by The Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 2005.

They were hung in a new steel one-tier frame with self-aligning ball-bearings and standard wheels and stays by Whites of Appleton in the first half of 2006.

The weights and diameters were measured at Whites and are listed in the following table from the Abingdon tower web site.

A ring of 10; tenor 16-0-0, diameter 44" tuned to F
Bell Weight
cwt-qr-lb
Diameter Strike
Note
Date
cast
Founder Foundry
location
Inscription
Treble 4-1-6 2413/16 A 2005 Whitechapel London FOR THE PRAISE OF GOD
A & R & S
2005
2 4-2-4 257/8 G 2005 Whitechapel London ABINGDON TOWN COUNCIL
ABINGDON JOINT ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST
1556 - 2006
ABINGDON BOROUGH CHARTER ANNIVERSARY
3 4-1-20 271/8 F 2005 Whitechapel London THE GIFT OF
SUSAN AND BRIAN READ
4 5-0-20 283/16 E 2005 Whitechapel London THE GIFT OF
TIMOTHY PETT
IN MEMORY OF HIS PARENTS,
LEONARD AND MARGARET
5 4-3-18 29¼ D 2005 Whitechapel London RODERICK, BRENDA, JOHN & DAVID
HUNT
ORDO AB CHAO
6 5-3-26 31 C 2005 Whitechapel London M PATRICIA DIXON
SING UNTO THE LORD
7 7-0-20 33¼ Bb 2005 Whitechapel London JOHN H S DIXON
REJOICE IN THE LORD
8 8-0-24 357/16 A 2005 Whitechapel London THE GIFT OF
HELEN BEAUMONT
AND
ALAN T WINTER
ALAN WINTER MAGGIE WINTER CLIVE BEAUMONT
 6/12/1920 - 11/9/1986   18/11/1919 - 9/6/2004   15/10/1947 - 29/4/1999 
9 10-3-20 3815/16 G 2005 Whitechapel London

LEWIS & JOAN RATTENBURY
MARRIED 7 JUNE 1941 — 31 MAY 2003

MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD ΠPSALM 100
Tenor 16-0-0 44 F 2005 Whitechapel London EDGAR HUMFREY: 1870 - 1956
BY WHOSE BENEFACTION
THIS RING OF BELLS WAS INSTALLED IN
THE CHURCH OF ST HELEN
PRAISE HIM UPON THE LOUD CYMBALS
(and on the other side:)
MICHAEL GOODE — RECTOR
MALCOLM HARVEY)
SUSAN SCOTT)
CHURCH WARDENS
THE ABINGDON SOCIETY OF BELLRINGERS
Sanctus ~1-0-0 12   1641     W.C..R.B..CHVRCH.WARDENS X64X
Notes:
  1. The inscriptions are on the waists of the bells.
  2. On the sides of the bells opposite to the inscriptions are:
    • the bell number in the inscription band but the tenor has instead the words “LAUS DEO”,
    • a border just below the inscription band denoting that the bell is cast to Gillett & Johnston profiles,
    • then:
      WHITES OF APPLETON
      CHURCH BELLHANGERS
    • then the Whitechapel foundry mark:
      20 [Mark] 05
      WHITECHAPEL
      The tenor has the bell number (10) just above the mark.
The Bells awaiting hanging in White’s workshop, March 2006.
front 6
Bells 1 - 6, all with headstocks:
front row, 6 & 5;
behind them and to the right, 4 & 3;
behind them, 1 & 2.
İKMC 14 Mar 2006
bell 2
Front of bell 2 showing the inscription
İKMC 14 Mar 2006
front 6
The back of the tenor; note the “LAUS DEO” in the inscription band, the bell number above the founder’s mark and the additional border above the sound bow.
İKMC 14 Mar 2006
Bell 7
The back of bell 7; note here the founder’s mark and the “Gillett & Johnston” border just below the inscription band
İKMC 14 Mar 2006
The Bells prior to 2006

Info taken from their website dated October 2003.
A ring of eight bells was cast by Lester & Pack of Whitechapel, London, in 1764. Four of these survive. In 1885 Mears and Stainbank augmented the bells to ten with two trebles, recasting the present fifth, ninth and tenor at the same time. The Bells were rehung in 1961 by F. White of Appleton. The seventh was recast in 1970 by the Whitechapel Bellfoundry. The Bells hang in a two-tier timber frame, the 2nd and 3rd being above the remaining eight.

Upper tier on bell frame
upper tier of trebles İKMC 18 Jul 2002
Lower tier of bell frame
lower tier of remaining 8 bells İKMC 18 Jul 2002

The 9th and Tenor are hung on hollow-section cast-iron headstocks and the remainder are on timber stocks. All swing on ball-bearings.

A ring of 10; tenor 20-1-6, diameter 48" tuned to Eb
Bell Weight
cwt-qr-lb
Diameter Strike
Note
Date
cast
Founder Foundry
location
Inscription Canons Tuning
Treble 4-3-12 26 G 1885 Mears &
Stainbank
Whitechapel PRESENTED BY EDWIN JAMES TRENDEL 1885.
MEARS AND STAINBANK, FOUNDERS, LONDON.
Yes Maiden
2 5-1-20 28 F 1885 Mears &
Stainbank
Whitechapel PRESENTED BY WILLIAM HENRY TRENDELL 1885.
MEARS AND STAINBANK, FOUNDERS, LONDON.
Yes Maiden
3 5-2-9 29 Eb 1764 Lester
& Pack
London LESTER & PACK OF LONDON. FECIT 1764 Removed Chipped
4 6-1-17 31 D 1764 Lester
& Pack
London [ROSETTE] LESTER & PACK OF LONDON. FECIT 1764. [19 coins] Yes Chipped
5 7-0-24 32 C 1885 Mears &
Stainbank
Whitechapel PEACE AND GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD.
LESTER & PACK OF LONDON. FECIT 1764.
RECAST BY MEARS & STAINBANK OF LONDON, 1885.
Yes Chipped
6 8-1-16 35 Bb 1764 Lester
& Pack
London [bell] YE RINGERS ALL THAT PRIZE YOUR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS BE SOBER MERRY WISE AND YOU'LL
THE SAME POSSESS [rosette] LESTER & PACK OF LONDON FECIT 1764.
Yes Maiden
7 9-0-15 37 Ab 1970 Mears &
Stainbank
Whitechapel LESTER & PACK OF LONDON. FECIT 1764. IN WEDLOCK BANDS ALL YE WHO JOIN YOUR HANDS WITH HEARTS UNITE SO SHALL OUR TUNEFUL TONGUES [bell]
COMBINE TO LAUD THE NUPTIAL RITE [rosette]
RECAST WHITECHAPEL LONDON 1970 [foundry mark]
None Machine
8 10-2-18 40 G 1764 Lester
& Pack
London LESTER & PACK OF LONDON. FECIT 1764 [border] Removed Maiden
9 14-2-23 43 F 1885 Mears &
Stainbank
Whitechapel OUR VOICES SHALL WITH JOYFUL SOUND MAKE HILLS AND VALLEYS ECHO ROUND.
LESTER & PACK OF LONDON FECIT 1764. RECAST BY MEARS AND STAINBANK OF LONDON 1885.
Removed Maiden
Tenor 20-1-6 48 Eb 1885 Mears &
Stainbank
Whitechapel BENJ: GRIFFITH & Wm BUSWELL CH: WARDENS. LESTER & PACK OF LONDON FECIT 1764
RECAST BY MEARS & STAINBANK OF LONDON 1885.
SLADE INNES BAKER, JOHN THORNBULL MORLAND, CHURCHWARDENS
Removed Maiden
Sanctus ~1-0-0 12   1641     W.C..R.B..CHVRCH.WARDENS X64X Yes Maiden
Notes
  1. Further historical details can be found in F.Sharpe, The Church bells of Berkshire
  2. Dove gave the note of the Tenor as E.
  3. According to Whites of Appleton Ltd web site, the weight of the old tenor was 19-0-24.
  4. Prior to 1764 there were six bells, slightly larger than the present major six. They were recast by Messrs. Lester and Pack of the Whitechapel foundry, London, in that year, into a ring of eight. Five of the eight remain as the present 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th. The present treble and 2 were added in 1885 by Messrs. Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel, who, at the same time, recast the present 5th , 9th and tenor.
Architecture

From a church leaflet by the Rector, the Revd. Michael Goode.

The church of St. Helen has been in a state of almost continuous change for over 1000 years. There has been continuous Christian worship here since before 995 AD. At present there is a major new development in the church.

Entrance.

Near to the font is the site of the original sanctuary of the Saxon church. The present marble font was carved in 1851. the cover is C 17th. The stained glass window behind picks up the baptismal theme.

John Roysse, who founded the Abingdon School in 1536, has a tomb in the church. There is also the painted family tree of Mayor William Lee who died aged 92 in 1637 leaving no fewer than 197 descendants.

The whole of the Lady Chapel was added by the Guild of Our Lady in the C 14th. The chapel contains the unique mediæval ceiling from 1391. The reredos and altar by Bodley and the modern tapestry reflect the legend of St Helen's discovery of the True Cross.

The Sacrament chapel is adjacent to the Lady Chapel and reflects the Gothic Revival style of the C 19th. The carved reredos is by Bodley (1879).

In front of the wooden chancel screen by Woodyer, 1837, there is a new sanctuary with under-floor heating. It is tiled with material from the 1830s which was lifted from the previous floor. The pulpit is from 1636 and the candelabra from C18th. St. Helen's has always played an important civic role and this is reflected in the existence of the gold town Mace and Mayor's Pew.

The organ case is a special treasure and dates from 1727.

The stained glass is Victorian and one window depicts the Women of the Bible.

The South aisle was added in 1539 by Katherine Audlett. She was the widow of John Audlett, the last steward of the Benedictine Abbey which was dissolved by Henry VIII at this time.

The church is said to be the second widest parish church in the country. It is made up of five aisles, which in fact are five churches under one roof!

The Tower dates from about 1200 and the spire was added in the C 15th. On three sides of the churchyard are attractive Almshouses.



Scenes around St. Helen's 1 Jan 2003

Ringing chamber
New Years' Day 2003 Branch ringing in St. Helen's ringing Chamber.
İKMC 1 Jan 2003
Ringers lunch Abingdon
Ringers’ lunch in St. Helen’s Church Hall Abingdon on New Year’s Day 2003 following ringing. We had home made soup and dessert - a fund raising effort for bell restoration.
İKMC 1 Jan 2003


Points of interest in church For more information please see the separate Abingdon page
  • One of Simon Jenkins 1000 best churches
  • Has five aisles, a painted mediæval ceiling and an organ restored in 2004
Church facilities:
Toilet key kept in tower or more toilets in the church rooms just across the churchyard but may not be open.

Travel Details: OS Grid Ref: SU497967

Several Car Parks in central Abingdon, for St.Helen's, use the one just across the bridge over the Thames or the nearer one just off West St.Helen Street; near the old Abbey buildings for St. Nicolas. Car Parks are usually free after about 6.30pm; some have public (pay) toilets.

Public Transport:
Stagecoach buses serve Abingdon; they stop near the old town hall, just across from St. Nicolas church. Frequent buses to Oxford or Didcot if you want to come by train.

Eating Places:   Described in the Abingdon page.
Local points of interest for non ringers: Described in the Abingdon page.

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