[Bell Historians] Fishlake, South Yorkshire

Ted Steele bells@tedsteele.plus.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Mon May 16 18:51:11 BST 2016

St Cuthbert, Fishlake. South Yorkshire.

Having done a small amount of work on these bells to enable a short 
spell of ringing for a special service I am trying to get a better 
understanding of their history. The following will show that I have very 
little knowledge in this area, particularly with regard to bell frames. 
Apart from my own interest this is to assist the new churchwardens who 
are keen to learn all that they can. Some of the questions have arisen 
in discussion since my last visit and the pictures I took were not aimed 
at solving them but were just some quick general shots for my own 
interest. I hope to visit again soon and may get better pictures.

 From RW and my own local knowledge I know that the bells were silent 
for many years until renovated by local ringers in 1999 and that there 
was then limited ringing until 2007. I am really more interested in the 
earlier history. If anyone has information that they are willing to 
share, or can point me to accessible sources I would be very grateful.

I am particularly interested in the bell frame, which seems to be a 
little problematic as to its origin. This possibility arises from the 
simple fact that it intrudes into the top part of the spiral staircase, 
which has had to be partly demolished to accommodate it. I was rash 
enough to suggest that this could indicate that perhaps the frame came 
complete from somewhere else rather than being made to fit the tower. 
There is certainly no shortage of space and a smaller frame would still 
have had loads of space for all  the bells. This has set the 
churchwardens and me wondering and so I offered to ask  the experts.

The frame has the name George Bedfoth (not Bedforth as in Dove) and the 
date 1704. It is Pickford type 6B as far as I can tell which I think 
would be consistent with this date. It has two other names on inside 
opposite faces of the tenor pit; H Smart 1937 and P L Worfolk 1937. It 
is not known what work was done in 1937.

A RW report of 4th Aug 1995, which described the DIY restoration that 
got the bells ringing again after 50 years silence, states that the 
bells had been augmented from 5 to 6 in 1868 by the addition of the 
present Warner's tenor. (This date may not be accurate as the same 
report gives the frame date as 1708 in spite of it being clearly 
marked). The report says that "/the bells were moved around in the 
original frame at that time/". There is certainly clear evidence that 
some bells were relocated as cut-outs for the earlier bearings are 
present, but not in every pit. There is evidence that the current 2nd 
pit has been narrowed by the addition of a short beam bolted to the top 
beam, and a former bearing cut-out exists behind this close to where the 
clock drive rods now pass through. Conversely it appears that the 4th 
pit has been widened and possibly lengthened by means of reducing the 
top beam width; this causes the rope to pass through the base of the 
frame itself rather than the floor.

Although it is clear that bells have been moved either within their pits 
or to different pits, there is no obvious evidence that I can recall of 
previous rope holes in the floor. (I want to check this as my visits 
were for other purposes and limited in time: these questions hadn't 
arisen and so were not checked). The floor is however in a very poor 
state with loose boards bridging numerous gaps and there are no proper 
rope bosses. From the clock room beneath there are no visible old rope 
holes in the ceiling that I can recall and I am sure that there were 
none in the clock-room floor.

If the RW report is correct that the bells were augmented by addition of 
a tenor they were presumably a minor five; or is it possible that an 
earlier tenor was replaced? At first sight it looks possible that the 
long tenor pit might have been an addition to the frame but in fact the 
outer top beams extend for the full width so this is not possible.

I have no details of the bells beyond Dove and would appreciate more 
information, such as  the inscriptions. The front three are dated (in 
Dove) 1706, two years after the date on the frame. So was purchase of 
these bells anticipated when the frame was installed? If so why not 
purchase a tenor for what was presumably just the two older bells (1641 
and c1500)?

A further problem as regards ringing has been that the clock hammer that 
strikes the 2nd could not be lifted off sufficiently to avoid being hit 
by the stay and so it could not be rung up. It appears that the D.I.Y. 
team may have tied this hammer back to a point beyond its normal "lifted 
off" position so that with just a small cut out being made in the stay 
the bell could be rung. It had been released (if in fact it /was /tied) 
possibly when the clock was converted to electric winding.  The clock 
was installed around 1910.

I have made an album "FISHLAKE" of rather inadequate pictures on the 
groups gallery page.
Unfortunately a few of the captions have not completely loaded but that 
should not matter much.

Please see online Dove for bell details.

Please note that although some very limited ringing was possible and was 
much appreciated by the parishioners, there is still no possibility of 
visiting ringers being allowed and no ringing at all is currently 
planned until after a full inspection expected in July. Even then 
ringing will not be possible until further work has been carried out. 
The church authorities are alert to the possibility of requests to ring 
following the short official ring recently, but are properly adamant 
that this cannot be allowed.

I will be grateful for any information at all that Historians may have 
about Fishlake bells. It is a wonderful church that will repay a visit. 
It has some supposed link with Roche Abbey a little south, near the 
Notts. border and some ancient woodwork is reputed to have come from 
there. Is it possible that one of the bells might have done so too? it 
is said that there were 8 or 9 bells there at the dissolution.

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