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Lyng Bellringers

 
 
 
Bells and Lyng go together. They have done for hundreds of years.  The bells of Lyng have always relied upon the good will and the steady hands of campanologists - or bell ringers. The fact that the bells rang out to celebrate the new millennium is due in no small part to the loyalty and commitment of many in the past and at the present.

Certain names seem to stand out in the history of the bells of St Bartholomew. Among these is that of  Edgar Batten. Like his predecessors Edgar did much to encourage the younger members of the village to develop an interest in bell ringing. When a group of Lyng ringers went to Tintagel in May 1988 the newspaper reported that they were ‘all under 30 years....trained by Edgar Batten who accompanied them on the weekend.’ The paper went on to say that Edgar ‘has trained over 50 young people in the art of campanology’. During the past 12 years the number has been added to.

Percy Hector, who signed himself in 1924 as the ‘foreman’ had five written rules for his ringers.

  1. Each ringer shall be free from duty in turn
  2. Any ringer absent and failing to find a substitute to be fined 3d
  3. Time on duty forty minutes before the service commences. if late fined 2d. if more than ten minutes late both fines to be paid.
  4. By mutual consent any two ringers who should be on duty may absent themselves by giving notice to the foreman the previous day before 9.00 a.m.
  5. No ringer may absent himself more than ten minutes between rising and lowering the bells. I n default fined 2d.

Edgar published his own rules in January 1963. Anyone wishing to be included in the Carnival Concert or the Ringers’ Supper had to have rung no less than one occasion per month that year. Those who had been unwell were expected to make up the time loss during their illness. If you wished to be included in the Christmas draw, then your record had to show that you had put in at least 75% of possible attendances. Those bell ringers who lived outside the parish of Lyng, were treated a little more leniently by Edgar.

 

When the villagers came together at the Rose and Crown on the eve of the millennium, the uncleared tables were evidence of Edgar’s determination to continue with this tradition of combining ringing with eating. No need for the bell ringers to avail themselves of the food generously provided by the landlord!

Records show that ringers had long been rewarded in such a manner. The Church Wardens Rate Book for Lyng 1680-1746 indicates that monetary rewards (one shilling for ringing on the King’s Coronation) were not the only way in which services were recognised. On November 5th 1730 ringers received twenty seven gallons of cider as well as bread and cheese. In 1746 Liquor, bread and cheese worth 7/9 was provided for the ringers.

But bells like those whom they summon to worship grow old and weary and suffer the hardships of passing time. In 1880 a heavy beam fell from the top of the Tower. Considerable damage resulted to the bells and the floor. The third bell had to be recast and repairs made to the tower. The main restoration to the tower took place in 1905 when the present bell frame was installed by T Doble of Taunton. It was designed for six bells. The five bells were re-hung on ball bearings in 1954. But money was short and the cost of recasting the tenor bell was to great to be undertaken. That had to wait until 1969, and even then was only able to take place thanks to a great fund raising effort by the bell ringers themselves.

In 1967 the ringers set up an appeal to enable them to purchase a new or second hand bell and to repair the tenor bell which by now had a 2.6’’ crack. Fund raising began with the ringers donating half of their carol singing gifts toward the fund. At the same time a request was made for foil, brass and copper. The ringer's intention was to collect the weight equivalent to another bell. A skittle week followed. Such events heralded the start of a whole range of fund raising activities -, jumble sales, the collection of empty Corona bottles, Bingo, whist drives and a sale of fruit. When a tractor donated by Taunton Rugby Club was disposed of by Mr Thorne, another seven pounds was added to the fund.

By now the bell ringers felt that they were in a position to obtain estimates for the work. The total cost of the repairs and the replacement of the tenor bell was said to be £1,141. Spurred on by the estimate the younger members of the bell ringing team planned other fund raising activities. A sponsored walk planned to take place from Lyng to Lyme Regis had to be abandoned on the advice of the police. A piano smashing event with seven pianos and 14 sledge hammers resulted in a huge pile of wood for the club fire during the winter and further amounts of money for the fund.  Each piece of broken wood had to be small enough to pass through a mini tyre, which was hanging, suspended from a tree near the pianos. The efforts of everyone proved to be worthwhile. When the final count was made, the ringers discovered that the fund had a surplus of £9.1/1d.

And so on July 31st 1969 watched by a crowd of curious onlookers the bells were unloaded from R T Brunt’s lorry. Carefully the six bells, (two of which were new), were lifted from the lorry and taken into the church. The recast tenor bell joined them as did the old 1609 Treble Bell (which could not be tuned with the others). Some time later the bells were dedicated and with the help of many of the ringers restored to their original place.

When numbers fell in recent years, Edgar personally delivered leaflets, which he had typed, through the letterboxes of the villagers. Similar invitations to join the ringers are today posted on various telegraph poles throughout the village - a tribute to Edgar’s commitment and his wish for the church and the parish to be able to hear the sound of the bells of St Bartholomew far into the new millennium. His work does not go unrewarded. New faces join familiar ones each Tuesday for their practice, a mixture of older members of the  village and youngsters. As the new millennium was ushered in so the bells of our church reminded us who was at the centre of our celebrations.
 
Sadly in 2009 Edgar passed away after a short illness.  He left a lasting memorial to his service to the church and our community in that the bells continue to ring out each Sunday, rung by those who were taught by Edgar.
 
Brian Parish has taken over as captain of the Tower and would welcome new members of his team. 

For further information on the bells or if you are interested in joining the campanologists please contact Brian at bells@lyng-somerset.co.uk

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