St. Peter's Church, Llanbedr
We know that St Peter’s already had bells at least as far back as the second half of the seventeenth century. County records are said to have recorded that in 1667 proceedings were taken in Brecon’s Consistory Court against a former churchwarden, William John, for damaging a bell. The present tenor, the largest with the deepest note, was either originally cast or more likely recast from the metal of an earlier one by the Glasbury founder Henry Williams in 1719; in turn it was recast in 1887 by John Warner of Cripplegate in London to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It weighs over 9 cwt – about 464 kg. We know there were five bells here in the mid-eighteenth century but at present aren’t certain whether, apart from the tenor, four earlier ones already existed here and were all recast at various stages in the 18th century; one or more of them could have been newly cast when installed. Three are from the Chepstow founder William Evans (dated 1736, 1746 and 1751) and one from John Rudhall of Gloucester (1800). In 1939 John Taylor of Loughborough, one of the UK’s only two currently remaining bellfounders, carried out a substantial rehang, introducing a steel frame in the belfry with six pits allowing for a future addition and mounting the bells on ball-races. The same firm supplied an Ellacombe chiming apparatus in 1963, donated by a local family. In 2007, members of the present band completed the project made possible by the pre-war rehang and oversaw the addition of an extra bell to become the new treble (the smallest). It was obtained second-hand from Rusper, in West Sussex and installed by Hayward Mills Associates. Like our tenor, John Warner had cast it, though ten years later in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The bell itself was donated by the Reverend Peter Newing of Ledbury, the matching and transfer was facilitated by the Keltek Trust and very generous donations towards the considerable installation costs were made by a number of individuals and organisations, including substantial financial and labour support from some of Llanbedr bellringers themselves. Augmentations of existing rings aren’t always entirely successful, but general opinion holds that Llanbedr now has a very good quality ‘six’ as a result.
From photographic evidence there was clearly a resident Llanbedr bell team at the turn of the 19th/20th century, but we know little or nothing about regular home bands after that until the 1980s. The first full peal (5,040 changes of Grandsire Doubles) was rung in 1940. Introduction of the Ellacombe apparatus in the early sixties strongly suggests that despite a desire to hear the five existing bells, there weren’t enough village ringers able or willing to handle them with the proper ‘full-circle’ technique on a regular basis at that time. From the later 1960s into the ’70s, notable visiting ringing in Llanbedr took place under direction of the late Paul Cattermole, the eminent campanologist who was then a teacher at the King’s School Worcester. He brought new young ringers into ‘The Exercise,’ many of whom became highly accomplished, and rang for services when he and others in the school stayed at its outdoor centre at the Old Chapel further up the Grwyne Fechan Valley. In the mid 1980s, a band from Llangattock came and rang our five bells for a Harvest service, inspiring us to start a new village team with initial training by outside ringers. We were very fortunate to discover an experienced past ringer in the village, who then became our captain for many years. Almost all the rest of us were raw learners, so our collective change-ringing capabilities were pretty limited. Nevertheless, for a few years we had sufficient to ring regularly, though simply, before Sunday services. Unfortunately some moved, some stopped and, as in many small communities, there aren’t at present enough of us to maintain regular full-circle ringing on Sundays. On special occasions we sometimes manage it when visitors contact us, but it mostly depends upon help from ringers at other towers near here. On most Sundays we resort to the Ellacombe apparatus if we want to do anything more than to ‘swing-chime’ a single service bell. Encouragingly, recent interest suggests we might eventually be able to re-establish more regular Sunday ringing. We often strike a single tower bell during Holy Communion, “telling out” worship to the community as an act of mission. Those of us still ringing here are willing to help at other churches where we can and when we are asked, both within our Ministry Area and beyond it - most often for weddings, but sometimes at other special commemorative or celebratory events. The current Llanbedr ringing chamber is at ground floor level, but there are plans to move us upstairs to a gallery if a second phase of the church’s development project moves forward as we hope. We maintain a fairly regular alternating Wednesday evening practice, joining with our ringing friends at St Elli’s Church, Gilwern.
If you’d like to learn (or even just to know a bit more about it), please contact the captain David Katz using the link below. We realise that, apart from our practices, you may only want to consider ringing at Llanbedr for Sunday services and not to go too far afield other than that; trust us - you’d be a most valued member even so. There’s everything to recommend bellringing at all levels: companionship, maintaining a pretty unique tradition in the nation’s ‘soundscape,’ exercise – excellent physical exercise, though not nearly as tough as it might seem once you’ve developed the technique - but especially mental, and with it the fantastic opportunity to visit other fascinating places and to ring with new friends.
Captain of Bells