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St. Michael & All Angels, Blewbury, Oxon
Old North Berks branch of the ODG
St. Michael & All Angels, Blewbury
St. Michael & All Angels, Blewbury
ęKMC 16 April 2002
Dedication: St. Michael & All Angels, Blewbury

Service Ringing: Sun 9.45 - 10.30

Practice night: Fri 8.00 to 9.30pm

The Bells (8) 19-0-13.

Restored by Taylor’ of Loughborough in 1998.

The original church was Saxon, mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086; the Normans rebuilt it then and 100 years later a central tower was added. This is now hidden within the roof but it probably had a wooden roof to cover the bells. The chafe marks made by the bell-ropes can still be seen on the inner edges of the arches. The 4 bell-rope holes in the vaulting were also visible until they were filled in during redecoration in 1968. The western tower was added during the 15th century. It is almost identical in design to that of East Hendred.

In 1906 the Vicar, the Rev. Victor Whitechurch, was the driving force to raise money to restore the tower and add two new trebles to complete the octave.

A framed list in the ringing chamber records that: The Bells were rehung with all new fittings in the existing frame which was strengthened with steel foundation girders in 1998 as a ‘Ring - in - the - Millennium’ project by John Taylors Bell Founders Ltd.

In February 2006 White's of Appleton strengthened the timber frame for this ring of eight with tie-rods and specially made plates, improving the "go" of these bells.

Access to ringing chamber: spiral staircase with handrail (39 steps) from within the church

A ring of 8; tenor 19-0-13, diameter 47½”, tuned to E(656Hz)
Bell Weight
cwt-qr-lb
Diameter Strike
note
Date
cast
Founder Foundry
location
Inscription
treble 4-3-17 27½ E 1906 John Taylor Loughborough IN POPULO GRAVI LAUDABO TE * [oak leaf border] *
[vine border all round bell]
[M] V.L.WHITECHURCH * VICAR
ELI CAUDWELL, L.G.SLADE, CHURCH-WARDENS
*1906*
2 5-0-3 28¾ D# 1906 John Taylor Loughborough DOMINE IN COELO MISERICORDIA TUA * [oak leaf border] *
[vine border all round bell]
[M] V.L.WHITECHURCH * VICAR
ELI CAUDWELL, L.G.SLADE, CHURCH-WARDENS
*1906*
3 6-0-24 30¼ C# 1663 Henry Knight II Reading HENRY KNIGHT MADE MEE 1663
4 6-2-2 33¼ B 1689 Samuel Knight Reading [Fig 21] THOMAS LYFORD HENRY BVTLER C--W 1689 SAMVELL KNIGHT
5 8-0-12 35½ A 1704 Samuel Knight Reading IOHN HVMPHRY IOH LEATE C [L3] W 1704
[two borders]
6 10-0-22 38 G# 1586 Joseph Carter Reading Blessed be the name of the Lorde [coin]
Joseph[F9]carter 1586
7 14-0-26 42½ F# 1752 Edward Read Aldbourne EDWARD READ OF ALBOURN WILTS FECIT 1752
Tenor 19-0-13 47½ E 1825 John Hunt Cholsey JOHN HUNT, FOUNDER, CHOLSEY BERKS. 1825. NIL DESPERANDUM
sanctus 1-0-5   1819 Thomas Mears London 1819

Notes:
  1. [M] is Taylor’s founders mark.
  2. The new trebles were cast without canons.
  3. There is a photo of the inscription on the treble on page 4 Blewbury - a hundred years of photographs published 1979 by the Blewbury Local History Group ISBN 0 9504794 1 1.
    Another photo from 1906 shows the scaffolding used to carry the 2 new trebles to the top of the tower. There were usually village festivities when new bells were brought to Blewbury. In 1906 they came in a decorated waggon and all the school children lined their route.
  4. In 1752 when the 5th bell (now 7th) was returned from Aldbourne after recasting the Master of the Charity School described how a hole was dug before the Charity School House and the bell set upright in it before being partly filled with beer provided by the local farmers. The assembled company were soon very merry toasting the return of the bell.
  5. John Hunt had tried twice to recast the tenor, so he enlisted the help of Chamberlain White of Appleton when he tried the third time, and added the phrase to the inscription ‘NIL DESPERANDUM’, Latin for ‘Never Despair’. After casting this bell was hung from the great yew tree and primed with beer for the festivities in 1825.
  6. Further historical details of the bells can be found in F.Sharpe’s the Church bells of Berkshire.
History

Blewbury is at the foot of the Chalk Downs roughly equidistant from Oxford, Newbury and Reading, on the ‘stream line’, where water draining through the chalk meets an impermeable layer of rock and rises in several streams which join to make the Mill Brook. A prehistoric hill fort,Blewburton Hill lies to the East of the main village. The Ridgeway National Trail is on the southern edge of the parish. The village occupations were mostly associated with agriculture until the latter half of the 19th century when it was ‘discovered’ by painters and writers.

Kenneth Graham, author of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ lived at ‘Boham’s’ in Westbrook street from 1910 to 1924. More recent resident authors have been Dick Francis, Margaret Sterne and G.B.Stern.

The Red Lion The Red Lion which serves pub meals.
They have a pleasant garden and a large car park where by prior arrangement patrons may be able to park while ringing.
ęKMC 19 Mar 2003
Thatched Cob walls These ‘cob’ walls are made from mud with a thatched roof to keep the rain off. This cheap building material lasts for many years.
ęKMC 19 Mar 2003
The Charity School The Charity School facing the church was built in 1707 to educate 50 poor children of the parish. In 1961 maintenance was taken over by the local education authority who built the bigger Primary School in Westbrook Street completed in 1965.
This old building is now used by the playgroup.
ęKMC 29 Jun 2003
Chained books and the cow bell Chained books and the old cow bell in the church.
The bell is reputed to be made of wrought iron. It stands 10” high and is 6” across the mouth which is not circular. It was used before the enclosure act of 1805 to call the cows down from the ‘Cow Commons’ or ‘Downs’. In those days each householder had a right of grazing a cow (or cows) and instead of each one going for his own cow, it was more economical for an old man or boy to go and ring the bell, when the cows would wend their way to their various homes. The Common Rights (or rather birthrights) were sold by the householders for a lump sum at he time of the enclosures.
ęKMC 29 Jun 2003
Garden in June Many of the old houses have well cared for gardens, some open to the public for the charity ‘National Gardens Open’ scheme.
ęKMC 29 Jun 2003
Wattle and daub construction Demonstration by the Blewbury History Group of the old method of building with wattle and daub; this former garage is being rebuilt with green oak and other traditional materials for use as their meeting room.
ęKMC 29 Jun 2003
The Clock

The church booklet states that the clock appears to date from the 17th century, though much repaired. It strikes the hour on the tenor bell. There was no face until the present one was installed on the south side of the tower to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1897.

Reference books about Blewbury:
  • St. Michael’s Church, Blewbury ~1990 booklet from the church.
  • Blewbury, a Hundred years of Photographs. Roger Cambray pub 1979 Blewbury Local History Group ISBN 0 9594794 1 1.
  • This Venerable Village, Some Notes on Blewbury Peter Northeast 1st pub 1964, reprinted 1992 Blewbury Local History Group ISBN 0 9594794 5 4.
  • The Story of Blewbury Charity School Peter Northeast pub 1980 Blewbury Local History Group ISBN 0 9594794 2 X.
Points of interest in church
  • Tower design very similar to that in East Hendred
  • Old Blewbury cow bell used in 18th century to call the cows in from the downs, and some chained books and a Black Letter Bible dated 1613.
  • 16th century memorial brasses
  • Outside two scratch (mass) dials on the buttress to the East of the South porch

Church facilities:

toilet Benefice Centre next to church in Rectory grounds, ask the person who welcomes you for door lock code.
Kitchen Tea making facilites - available in vestry, please arrange in advance of visit.

Travel Details: OS Grid Ref: SU532859. Church car park in Rectory grounds at Church End (North side of church), please avoid parking on roadside as access to the church is limited, especially to the south

Public Transport:A few buses run by the Abingdon Taxi Company, to take school children to Didcot. Didcot railway station is about 4 miles.

Eating Places: The nearest pub is The Red Lion built in the mid 17th century, refaced in 1807, a few minutes walk from the church in Chapel Lane. They have a garden and a large Car Park surrounded by 'cob' thatched walls. Two other pubs are a little further away, The Barley Mow is on the London Road and The Load of Mischief is in South Street. They may only serve meals, not bar snacks, so it may be better phone them first to check. The greengrocers, Savages, on the London Road, towards Upton, near the Sebastopol Barn, also sell icecreams and cold drinks during the day.

Local points of interest for non ringers:
  • The early 18th century Charity School near the church, now used by Blewbury playgroup.
  • Boham's, house where Kenneth Grahame lived from 1910 to 1924
  • Village paths beside the streams
  • Old houses, open during the 'Blewbury Festival' held on alternate years in summer with beautiful gardens open as part of the 'National Gardens Open' scheme
  • Antique shop on the London road, roughly opposite 'The Barley Mow' usually has details of the 'Blewbury Local History Group' who publish booklets on village history
  • Blewburton Hill, a pre-historic hill fort East of Blewbury

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