Furness Bell Ringers Tour West Cumbria 2015

Name of walk Furness Bell Ringers Tour West Cumbria 2015
Date of walk 2015-05-04

On Bank Holiday Monday members of the Furness Branch of the LACR toured six church bell towers in the west of Cumbria. We visited towers in Arlecdon, Cleator Moor, Egremont, St Bees, Hensingham and Whitehaven, ending with a meal at a local hostelry.  This year the trip was organised by Barrow St. James Tower Captain, Andy Pollock. We had to make an early start, leaving home at 7.15am. Thankfully the weather was kind, but we did hit some low cloud as we headed over Corney Fell, after that it was sunshine all the way.


St Michael's at Arlecdon stands in the middle of nowhere on the site of an ancient 13th century church which was repaired in the 17th, 18th and 19th century and fully restored in 1905. It is grade ll listed and has a peal of eight bells. We arrive at 9am to ring for an hour. The church is due for closure, which is why we took this opportunity to ring the bells. (Photo by Andy).


The lych gate.



The pulpit is carved Caen stone from the Bayeux region of northern France.


The stone font dates from 1578 and was returned after many years in a nearby farmyard. The font cover and roof are of carved oak.


It has a small ringing room.


The ringing room centre piece is a small bell.



We then travel to St. John the Evangelist in Cleator Moor. St John’s is a Grade 2 listed building and was built in1872. The present peal of 8 bells were cast in 1909. This church has also been earmarked for closure.


The ringers gather in the grounds while we wait for the tower to be opened.


The tenor is 21 cwt, the same as Dalton's, which, unlike St John's, is never rung down. It takes two hefty and fit ringers to ring the bell up, unfortunately we had to make do with Hilary and Andy!


I climb the belfry ladder to take this photo.


Andy takes this photo as I am ringing. I would like to point out to the 'ringing police' that in every photo that Andy took where I was ringing, my hands were always together......so there....nah! .....with bells on! And very nice bells they were too.


Next up is the church of St. Mary and St. Michael in Egremont. The church dates from 1881 and is grade ll listed. They have a ring of eight bells.



The font is of unusual design. It is a sculpture of a kneeling angel holding a large scallop shell, copied from a design in the Lutheran Cathedral in Copenhagen.


The church has some excellent stained glass. I do like the more modern examples.


A medieval bell.


We are ringing for an hour so I have plenty of time to take the three minute walk to Egremont Castle. It is too nice a day to spend it all inside. The castle was built by William Meschin, who founded the castle between 1120 and 1135. Further additions were made in the 13th century. It eventually fell into disuse and became the ruin it is today. The castle is of Motte-and-bailey design.



Two photo view over Egremont from the top of the mound, the church is on the far right. I can hear the bells perfectly from up here. Click on the photo to get it full size, re-click to return.


Another small ringing room, so once again I climb the belfry ladder to take the photo.


At St. Bees we all go off to various places for lunch. I did not fancy going to a pub, preferring to be outside making the most of the weather, so I take a walk down to the beach to eat my packed lunch, meeting up with Anne, Keith and Stan who had procured a picnic table. Looking towards St Bees Head and a field of yellow rape. This is the start of Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk.


The beach. After lunch we headed for The Priory.


The Priory Church of SS Mary and Bega at St Bees. We were due to ring here for an hour from 2.30pm. Unfortunately the person designated to let us in, failed to turn up and was not contactable. There was much disappointment as this was to be one of the gems of our tour. Thankfully Andy managed to get in touch with the key holder of the next bell tower and we were allowed to make an early start there.


Inside The Priory.


St. John the Evangelist at Hensingham. St John’s Church was built in 1913. The tower contains eight bells.



Yet another belfry ladder for me to climb!


Our last church was St. James at Whitehaven. This lovely church, once described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘the finest Georgian church interior in the county’, was dedicated on St. James’ day, 25th July 1753. It is grade l listed. There is a ring of twelve bells. The oldest of these were cast in 1586. The last two were made in 1998.


Under the tower is a lobby with a staircase leading in two arms to the gallery. The Church has galleries round three sides supported on Tuscan columns, and carrying unfluted ionic ones. The ceilings are flat, with two delightful stucco roundels.


The interior is pretty impressive!


The Millennium Window. A representation of a bell wheel and rope. The reaching hands can be interpreted in a number of ways: reaching for the rope of salvation; stretching out to greet the "Light of the world" or ringing-in the celebration of 2000 years of faith. The only comments from ringers were "Tut! Their hands aren't together!" .......The Ringing Police: ever alert to illegal handling transgressions! ;-) The Ringing Police are very similar to the Grammar Police, in fact I think they probably consist of the same people; but they tend to shout "split infinitive" at you instead of "hands together". I'm quite partial to a split infinitive, after all Captain Kirk did quite well out of one.


This was the best ringing room I have ever been in. It was very spacious with leather arm chairs and sofa! I took my usual position up the belfry ladder to take a couple of photos.


Note the sofa in the right hand corner. This is how ringing should be, all the comforts of home!


Andy's ground level photo.


The 12 bells are a very quick ring, no gaps allowed. Yet another example of my hands being together. Trust the ringing police to be looking in the other direction! (AP)


For our evening meal we went to The Vagabond on Whitehaven Waterfront. It was excellent! We took over the whole of the upstairs dining room. (AP)


Alan, achieving a new personal best of consuming TWO gourmet cheeseburgers during one ringing tour. Well done that man! (AP)






Something very rarely seen.....Keith, the Furness Branch Secretary, actually parting with money (albeit very reluctantly), as opposed to collecting it. Andy took this photo (along with several sworn affidavits) both as evidence and for posterity.


"For heaven's sake, Hilary......hands together!" ;-) (Photo by Alan)


After an excellent meal we make our way back along the harbour front to the church and our cars.


Sunset over Whitehaven Harbour. I arrived home at 11pm. A long but enjoyable day.

A superb day (despite the disappointment incurred at St. Bees Priory), spent in excellent and convivial company. Many thanks to Andy for organising the day, for transport and the use of a few of his photos.

This Saturday I am taking part in my third consecutive 40 mile Keswick to Barrow Walk. I am walking for Hospital Equipment Fund for Furness (HEFF). I have about £140 pledged so far, a bit down on previous years’ sponsorship…..but there is still time to donate! My online sponsorship page is https://www.keswick2barrow.co.uk/sponsor/welcome.asp?ID=10204

Or see me in person, cash at the ready (Go on, give the moths some exercise!) for paper sponsorship, either method is fine. 🙂