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St Buryan Church Bellringers

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The Great Bells of St Buryan, Cornwall

THE SIX BELLS of St. Buryan's Church in Cornwall are renowned as one of the heaviest peals of six bells anywhere in the world.

The Treble bell is the fourth heaviest treble anywhere in the world, out-weighed only by the trebles at East Pennard in Somerset, Liverpool Cathedral & Brailes in Warwickshire, The Tenor bell, weighing in at 37cwts-2qtrs-9lbs and tuned to C# is the heaviest tenor bell of any six-bell peal anywhere in the world.

Bell number Four is the oldest bell, cast in 1638 by a west country founder called Pennington. In 1901 Warner's Bellfoundry recast several of the old bells and the most recent renovations were carried out by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London in the 1990's. Warner's bell number Three was recast in 1992; the magnificent Tenor in 1994 and the Treble 2001

For over almost 370 years the bells of St. Buryan have called people to worship. As the sound of the bells rolls across the countryside, it reminds the house-bound and the non-church-goer alike that the church is at prayer.

For full details of the history of the bells, click on Inscriptions on the bells on the side bar menu.

Some Useful Contacts

Tower Captain:
Chris J Venn
1 Ellis Square, Voundervour Lane, Penzance TR18 4UH
Tel: 01736 362895

Tower Secretary: Mrs Joan Thomas
1 Tower Villas, St Buryan Penzance TR19 6BZ
Tel: 01736 810548

Practice Night: First Friday in each month 7:30-9:00pm.
Sunday Service ringing is from 9:30 to 10:00am.

Visitors are very welcome but as Practice Nights and Service Ringing does not take place every week please write or ring the Tower Captain or Email: to check.

Peal Requests: Are strictly limited, for information contact the Tower Captain.

Visiting Bands: Requests please to the Tower Secretary.

Details of the Bells Today

No. Weight Diameter Note Founder
Treble 9-1-11 36" A# 2001 Whitechapel
2 8-1-0 38" G# 1681 R Pennington
3 13-2-10 43" F# 1992 Whitechapel
4 13-3-1 45" E# 1901 J Warner
5 20-2-2 50" D# 1901 J Warner
Tenor 37-2-9 59" C# 1994 Whitechapel

The Tower & Bells

St Solomon The Tenor Bell

The Tower
The very fine tower was completed in 1501 after taking 21 years to build using local Lamorna cut granite (the same used centuries later to build the London Bridge which is now in Arizona). Some of its stones weigh over two tons and give the tower massive strength: indeed, a 1991 survey showed that even with all the bells swinging in the same direction, the 90ft tower moved only 0.005 inches.

From eight to three to four bells
In 1638 R. Pennington was given an order to cast eight bells (the first peal of eight in Cornwall), but when Dunkin visited St Buryan to obtain details for his book Church Bells of Cornwall (1878) he found only three bells, dated 1638, 1681 and 1738, so there must have been at least two ``restorations'' between 1638 and Dunkin's visit. In 1901 Warner's cast a new tenor, retuned the treble of the old three and recast the other two. All four were then rehung in a new heavy duty steel frame.

A period of silence
The four bells were dedicated on 31st July 1901 to the great delight of the parishioners as the village was festooned with flags and bunting. A band of five men from St Mary's, Penzance, rang a touch of Bob Minimus, but after that the bells were not rung full circle again. The St Mary's band were much more interested in eight-bell ringing and the idea of traveling to St Buryan did not ``liken to them''. With no interest, the bells soon became unringable. In 1981, however, the Rector of St Buryan, Rev. Maurice Friggens, wished to mark the wedding of H.R.H. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer by ringing the treble full circle, and this was achieved through the efforts of local craftsmen and a neighboring ringer.

From four to five to six bells
In October 1990 Chris Venn, who had been fascinated by the bells of St Buryan since learning to ring some 30 years previously, moved to the area from London and soon obtained permission from the PCC to restore the bells to a ringable condition, free of charge, and then, after sufficient funds had been raised, to restore and augment the bells to six.
After four months' work replacing wheels, stays, sliders, pulleys etc and erecting a large steel supporting structure under the bell frame, the world's heaviest ring of four rang out on 16th February 1991. Some enthusiastic parishioners were recruited and teaching began at nearby Paul. A nationwide appeal was launched to raise the necessary 80,000 to rehang, tune and augment the bells to six with the addition of a treble and a heavy tenor.
By June 1992 sufficient funds had been raised to rehang and augment to five bells, (a new treble having been purchased from Holy Trinity Huddersfield, a 1884 Gillett & Sons Bell), the old four rang out for the last time on 14th June 1992. All the work was completed in the tower ready for the arrival of the five bells from Whitechapel in October 1992, and the restored bells were dedicated on 22nd November 1992. In January 1994 the order for the new tenor was placed with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry; casting was on 13th April and the bell was dedicated on 28th May 1994. This bell (St Solomon) and the treble are hung in their own frame below the other four.
When the bells were augmented to five in 1992 the new treble bell, blended in quite well with the other four. However, when the tenor was added in 1994, it lacked depth of sound to match this super two-ton bell. In 2001 a new treble bell was ordered from Whitechapel and cast in January. The old treble was removed and is now installed in Australia. The new bell arrived and was installed on 15th February 2001.

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