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Bristol Rural Branch
Almondsbury (St Mary the Virgin)

St Mary the Virgin, Almondsbury - click for a larger version

Name or Dedication: St Mary the Virgin

Location: Almondsbury, Gloucestershire

Grid Reference: ST603841

The six heaviest bells of this ring were cast from the previous ring of five, the two trebles being added later. The sixth was recast in 1881 due to having been cracked some years previously by the clapper of the seventh which broke whilst ringing was in progress. Ellacombe incorrectly lists Abel Rudhall's bells with the original tenor cast in 1601, an error perpetuated in the PCC's "A Brief Guide to the Church" published in 2002.

The tower of this church is mainly 13th Century, but the belfry stage may have been added with the 70 foot high lead-covered spire in the 17th Century. The bells were rung from the Chancel Crossing in the ground floor until 1814–16 when a new Ringing Room was created in the Clock Chamber above. A staircase turret was built at the south-east corner of the tower, and the pitch of the transept gables was reduced to allow for a new doorway in the south wall of the Ringing Room and a matching window in the north wall. There is evidence of large vertical oak beams against the east and west walls of the Ringing Room which probably supported an earlier bell frame above.

In 1897 the arches between the transepts and the Nave aisles were found to be half-arches that also served to buttress the tower. These unusual features had previously been made into conventional pointed arches, but were at that time restored to their original design.

The bells were quarter-turned and rehung on plain bearings in a new oak frame by John Sully of Stogumber, Somerset in 1903; they were rehung again with new fittings in 1948. In March 2006 Whites of Appleton drilled out the bells' cast-in crown staples, and replaced the clappers of the front six bells and all the bearing bushes.

In a cupboard in the north-west corner of the Ringing Room is an undated birdcage clock. Its dial is on the north wall of the tower, and it strikes the hours on the tenor. It was rebuilt in 1880, this date being inscribed on the setting dial, and was converted to electric winding in 1963. Originally hand-wound and weight-driven, the going train is now driven by a Huygens Auto Winder, and the striking train is driven directly by an electric motor triggered by an electrical connection made when the locking lever is released. The movement has been modified to remove the mechanical connection between the two trains.

Also in the Ringing Room is an Ellacombe Chiming Apparatus, given by Canon George Robert Wood, Vicar, and his wife Kathleen in September 1903. Although potentially operable, it is unused except for the fourth hammer's rope which has been extended to the ground floor for use as a calling bell.

Bells hung for full-circle ringing

The bells of St Mary the Virgin, Almondsbury
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
16¼ cwt 30 inD Abel Rudhall 1751
27¼ cwt 32½ inC# Abel Rudhall 1751
38¾ cwt 35 inB Abel Rudhall 1743
49 cwt 36 inA Abel Rudhall 1743
510½ cwt 39 inG Abel Rudhall 1743
614½ cwt 42½ inF# Llewellins & James 1881
716¾ cwt 46 inE Abel Rudhall 1743
823¾ cwt 51 inD Abel Rudhall 1743

Source: Bell data from Dove's Guide, Nick Bowden and Andrew Bull. Further information from "The Church Bells of Gloucestershire" (Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 1881), "A Brief Guide to the Church" (Almondsbury Parochial Church Council, 2002), and an old document in Almondsbury Ringing Room. Clock and Ellacombe Chiming Apparatus inspected personally 24th June 2006. Strike note of fourth bell confirmed 5th August 2006.

Where the exact weight of a bell is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.