St Mary’s Church – High Bickington

The church tower is hung with eight bells and bellringing has been a hobby of many locals over the years as well as entertaining many visiting teams.

The first five bells were installed in 1753, although it is not known if there were bells in the tower prior to this. A sixth bell was added in 1827 and the Octave was completed in 1911, when the bells were re-cast and the two additions added.

The bells are inscribed and dated as follows:

Bell numberInscriptionDate
1GLORY TO GOD IN
THE HIGHEST
WE 1753
2AND ON EARTH PEACEWE 1753
3GOOD WILL TO MEN1911
Re-cast in that year
4THOS. SCOTT AND
MR JOHN SHUTT CHWNS
WNS 1753
5REV MR JOSHUA
WORTH RECTOR
1753
6ADDED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
T Mears of London fecit
REV W P STANSWELL RECTOR
R WEBBER M COOKE CHURCHWARDENS
1827
7IN MEMORY OF
KING EDWARD VII
1911
8GOD SAVE KING GEORGE V1911

Photgraph’s taken at the time the bells were re-cast and re-hung circa. February 1911

Following the re-hanging of the Bells the Bishop of Exeter visited the village for the dedication of the bells which was reported in the ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazzette’ on 10th March 1911 as follows:

HIGH BICKINGTON BELLS.
A PEAL OF EIGHT.
DEDICATION BY THE BISHOP.

The bells of the parish church have just been overhauled and re-hung. Photo by Pedler and Son, High Bickington. Caption appeared below a copy of the first photo above.

The picturesque church of High Bickington, standing on the summit of a hill overlooking some of the most charming Devonshire scenery, is now in the possesion of an excellent peal of eight in place of a former ring of six bells. The approximate cost of increasing and rehanging the peal has been £350, and the sum of £300 has already been raised by public subscription. A new treble and new tenor bell have been provided, and the old fourth bell has been re-cast. The new treble bears the inscription:- “God save King George.” The tenor bell is in memory of the late King Edward, and has the key of A flat.

At the dedication service the clergy presnet, in addition to the Lord Bishop of Exeter, were the Rector of High Bickington (the Rev. C. V. Wansborough), the Revs. F. Emlyn Jones (Vicar of Torrington, and Rural Dean), J. B. Singleton (Yarnscombe), W. W. Arthur (Atherington), J. Pattison (Dolton), and C. W. H. Kenrick (Holy Trinity, Barnstaple). The service was the usual form of Evensong prayer. Psalms cxxxiii and cxxxiv were chanted. The first Lesson, Issiah 51st. 1-7, was read by the Rev. J. B. Singleton. The second Lesson, read by the Rural Dean, was from Hebrews 10, 11-26. The hymns sung were “Now thank we all our God.” and “When morning gilds the skies.” The Bishop was escorted to the belfry by the Rector, Rural Dean, and churchwardens (Messers John E. Harris and John Cole). His lordship duly dedicated the bells, and they were then rung by G. Pedler (treble), R. Pedler (second), G. Pedler (third), W. R. Newberry (fourth), S. Cole (fith), J. Kent (sixth), J. Cole (seventh), and E. Ellicott (tenor).

The Bishop subsequently gave an address. He took for his text the words, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another.” What, his lordship asked, were the bells for? What was their function? What was the part they played in the spiritual life of the parish? Clearly the bells were, to begin with, a witness to God. Because they had, for their first purpose, to summon people together for worship of Gad. Were there no God to worship, their being present would have no purpose whatever, and the bells would have no part to perform. The ringing of the bells in every parish church in the country was a witness our country professed faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ. That was the first and obvious thought which the bells suggested. Secondly, the bells spoke of their duty to od. Their duty to God was to worship Him and pray to Him – to praise His name, not only as individuals in the inward quiet of thei own chambers, but also to offer as a body not only thier seperate worship as so many individuals, but their joint worship as a congregation. The dedication of the bells should impress upon everyone present the value of worship of Almighty God. He hoped that everyone who heard the new peal of bells summoning worshippers to church on Sundays would fell more than ever before their duty to repair to the House of God. Those who heard the bells sounding for worship at any time, and on any day, if they were unable to attend, should not let the sound of the bells go by without calling forth some inward prayer to God of thanksgiving for His great goodness, some expression of sorrow for sins, something of that spirit of the Psalmist of old, who, without church bells to remind him, none the less said of his soul, “My soul is athirst for the living God. When shall I come to appear before the living God?” Referring to the ringers the Bishop it was a mockery, and worse than a mockery, if the work of bell-ringing were taken up in any other than a religious spirit. No good Christian man could take part in the work of bell-ringing without being the better for it. They should see they had their part in the prayer which they were summoning others. In conclusion, his lordship remarked that this dedication of the new bells would make a step of progress forward in the work of God, and the deepening of true religion in the faith of Jesus Christ.

The collection amounted to £5 10s 6d.
A tea was afterwards held in the schoolroom.

HIGH BICKINGTON

The Lord Bishop of Exeter held a confirmation service in the Parish Church on Monday morning, and in the afternoon dedicated a peal of eight bells. At the confirmation service there were eleven candidates, six males and five females, all from the parish. The service for the dedication of the bells was held at a quarter to three. One of the six old bells has been re-cast, and a new treble and tenorhave been added, making a musical, though rather light, peal of eight. At the service the church was quite filled. The first lesson was read by the Rev. J. B. Singleton, Vicar of Yarnscombe, and the second by the Rev. F. Emlyn-Jones. At a pause in the service the Bishop proceeded to the belfry to dedicate the bells, and a short peal was then rung. The offertory was in aid of the bell fund and amounted to £5 11s 6d. A public tea was held in the National School after the dedication service and was well attended.