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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 2 Easter 2007

The bells the bells

You must have heard St Mary's church bells ringing out but have you ever stopped to think about their history?

The tower contains eight bells, cast in 1799 at a cost of £376. The heaviest bell of the present ring weighs just over 1 tonnes and the total weight of all the bells is about 4 tonnes. To reach the ringing chamber, halfway up the tower, the ringers have to ascend 52 steps; still way below the bells.

The walls of the ringing chamber are covered with ornate plaques recording ringing performances since the 1700s. (To a bellringer, a peal is when the bells are rung non-stop in a series of 5000 or more different permutations - the bellringers equivalent of a marathon.) As noted below in 1753 Andrew Fosdike ran up and down the tower steps 7 times in 27 minutes on his 67th birthday!

The bells of St. Mary's

The oldest peal board in the tower dates from 1789, and records a peal of 5040 changes of Bob Major. One of the ringers was a Robert Fosdike, Andrew Fosdikes grandson. Shortly after this peal was rung, Robert was press ganged and fought in the Napoleonic Wars. However, he survived and went on to produce more Fosdike ringers. One John Fosdike was also the superintendent of St Marys Sunday School!

Several of the peal boards in the tower record peals that were rung for special occasions. One records a peal rung on 6th May 1935 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and another records a peal rung on 9th May 1945 to celebrate VE Day. More recently, boards have been erected to commemorate peals rung to celebrate the Queens Golden Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of VE Day, and the 60th anniversary of VJ Day.

So the next time you hear St Marys bells ringing out, just pause and remember that they have been doing this for over 200 years. And if youd like to try ringing yourself do get in touch. (via the Parish Office)