Thaxted revisited.

jim phillips jim at p...
Wed Jun 23 11:20:43 BST 2004

My PC was 'broke' when Thaxted was under discussion, but I was surprised at
the derision concerning the bells which some consider unmusical. Thaxted
Church has a fine musical tradition with a choir once able to sing Byrd,
Palistrina, Tallis etc unaccompanied. Gustav Holst once lived in the Parish
playing the organ and training the choir and when he moved to London he
would often return to Thaxted to play the organ and conduct musical events.
Holst also set to unaccompanied voices the old Cornish poem with the first
line of 'Tomorrow shall be my dancing day' and which he dedicated to Conrad
Noel, vicar 1910-1942. Noel was formerly a curate at St Mary's , Primrose
Hill under Percy Dearmer when the English Hymnal was being formed at that
church with Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw. The vicar at Thaxted at the
time of the Gillett restoration in 1949 was Jack Putterill, a fine musician
who could play any instrument from Pipe organ to penny whistle and was also
squire of the local Morris dance regularly playing the accordian for them.
I have yet to hear Thaxted but find it incredible and cannot believe that
against this strong musical backgound an unmusical peal was installed.
Putterill was also an enthusiastic ringer and in his autobiography
(published 1977) he descibes in some detail the bell restoration. Michael
Howard of G & J was also an enthusiastic Morris man and G & J got the job.
Howard reported that 3,4,5 were cracked and required recasting. The
remainder were to be put on metal headstocks with new bearings, the total
cost being over £1000. The 4th bell was given a frieze of folk dancers
around the shoulder this frieze being drawn by and carved in wood by Michael
Howard's mother and embossed on the clay mould. A photo of this bell shows
a very fine casting equivalent to a 'lost wax' process. A few weeks after
the re-dedication in March 1949, the old Gardiner seventh of 1734 developed
a crack and was recast bringing the weight up from 12cwt to 13 cwt. The
bell bears the inscription 'I ring for the joy in craftsmanship' and at the
base of the bell are represented the arts and crafts of man; Pottery,
Engineering, Agriculture, Clock-making, Painting and music, Organ -building,
Book-binding, Cutlery, Spinning and Weaving , Brickmaking.
Brickmaking? The inscriptions on our bells are indeed a rich historic
heritage and not often discussed on this list.

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