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WARWICK St Mary 10, 24-3-20 in D

Grid Reference 151/282650 Warwick, St Mary Church - Source J Gwynne
Postcode CV34 4AB
Affiliation Coventry DG
Peals Felstead Database
Sunday 0945 - 1030 (ex 1st) 1030 - 1100 (1st)
1745 - 1830
Practice Wednesday 1930-2100 (1 & 3) (Check for 5th)
Other Information Church Website


An historic church that is one anyone should stop a while and visit before ringing there. The Beauchamp Chapel is beautiful. The tower stands stands out for miles around, the tower door being in the north-east pier.

The church was founded as a collegiate church (administered by a 'college' of a Dean and Canons) in 1123 by Roger de Newburgh, second Earl of Warwick. The style of Newburgh's church was decidedly Romanesque, with heavy, rounded pillars. The best surviving part of that Norman church is in the crypt. The early Norman church was rebuilt in the 14th century by Thomas Beauchamp, father and son, the first Beauchamp Earls of Warwick. The first Thomas Beauchamp financed his building of the chancel with money obtained from the ransom of a French archbishop. The chancel, vestries, and chapter house were rebuilt in Gothic style.

Thomas Beauchamp's  descendant, Richard de Beauchamp (d.1439),  provided funds in his will for the creation of a chantry chapel in St Mary's. This, aptly dubbed The Beauchamp Chapel, is one of the great Gothic architectural achievements in England. The executors of Beauchamp's will spent over £2400, an enormous sum in those days, creating a masterpiece of Gothic style which took over 20 years to complete. The chapel, which is dedicated to Our Lady, is composed of three bays, at the centre of which is the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, raised on a pedestal and surrounded by an iron fence. The effigy of Earl Richard is set upon a chest of Purbeck marble, with a canopy above, and latten (gilded in copper alloys) weeping figures below. Beside the tomb of Earl Richard is that of Ambrose Dudley (d. 1590), whose effigy wears a gilded iron coronet, added in the 18th century. The grandest tomb of all in the Beauchamp Chapel is that of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (d.1588), and his wife Lettice (d.1634). Dudley, the brother of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, and one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. His tomb is set into the north wall of the chapel, beneath a gilded canopy.

Warwick had its own "Great Fire" in 1694. The blaze destroyed much of the old medieval town, and the nave and tower of St Mary's were lost. Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul's in London, submitted a design for reconstruction of the church, but Wren's design was rejected in favour of one by Sir William Wilson of Sutton Coldfield. The most striking aspect of Wilson's design is the west tower, which stands 174 feet high, and, unusually, projects out into the road, with a arches on three sides to allow passage under the tower for foot traffic. 

In 1552 there were "v belles" and by 1656 a treble had been added. Tilley & Walters state that the treble had no inscription, the second was probably by Newcombe, the third was cast in Worcester, the 5th in Nottingham. The fourth and tenor was Isabella Despenser, Countess of Warwick who died in 1439 foundress of the Beauchamp Chapel.

There became a ring of eight here in 1656 when the old tenor was recast into three trebles at Coventry by Bryan Eldridge. All were destroyed in the Great Fire of Warwick.

Abraham Rudhall was contracted to provide a new ring of eight which were delivered in 1702, but in the following year two more bells were added to make ten. The tenor was first recast in 1725 and recast again by Mears in 1814, its frequency now equating to D-34c. There was a major restoration in 1901 that involved the recasting of 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 & 8. Before this restoration they were an anticlockwise 10. The old bells were retuned. Prior to this the 5th was 8-0-21, the 6th 9-3-21, the 9th 18-3-18 and the tenor 27-0-14.

Cast iron frame and fittings are by Taylors, 1901. The back four were hung on ball bearings by Arthur Fidler in 1979 and numbers 4, 5 & 6 in 1981 by the same person. The rest were rehung on ball bearings by Taylors during 2008. The Taylor bells were all cast with flat tops and the canons have been removed from the others.

Tonally they are a grand ring, but, despite being anything but "too difficult to handle", do take some ringing to get the best out of them due to tower sway. Put the necessary effort into your ringing and you will be rewarded, is the best thing to say.

The bell that survived the great fire of Warwick was rehung. It was cast in 1671 by a Mr Henry Bagley at a cost of 25 shillings. It is believed that the bell originally was hung in the chapel and so separately from the tower bells which crashed to the ground in the fire. The bell loitered in the crypt for 75 years or so before it was cleaned and rehung above the main bells in 1976. It has a distinctive shape and its sound was described as harsh and rather unmusical and for a few years it was chimed as a service bell. When mobile phone aerials were installed in the bell chamber this old bell was removed and can now be seen once more in the crypt.

The chime barrel plays three verses at 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm every day. The tune changes each day and the tunes are;
The Easter Hymn (Sundays)
Home, Sweet Home (Mondays)
Thaxted (the tune for "I Vow to Thee My Country") (Tuesdays)
The Bluebells of Scotland  (Wednesdays)
The Minstrel Boy (Thursdays)
The Warwickshire Lads and Lasses (Fridays)
Last Rose of Summer (Saturdays)

There is one band for the two towers in Warwick.  Normally practice is here on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month and at St Nicholas on 1st and 3rd.  The band decide which tower to ring at when there is a 5th Wednesday. Sometimes church activities change the schedule, so you might wish to check before turning up - though the two towers are hardly distant from each other!

Details of the Bells

 1 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   4-2-19  27.00"   1451.5Hz (F#-34c)
 2 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   5-0-07  28.125"  1296.5Hz (E-29c)
 3 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   5-3-04  29.875"  1154.0Hz (D-31c)
 4 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901   6-1-14  31.25"   1086.0Hz (C#-36c)
 5 Abraham Rudhall I, Gloucester   1702   7-1-20  33.75"    966.0Hz (B-39c)
 6 Abraham Rudhall I, Gloucester   1702   9-2-02  37.625"   864.0Hz (A-32c)
 7 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901  11-1-11  40.125"   769.0Hz (G-33c)
 8 John Taylor & Co, Loughborough  1901  13-1-11  42.50"    723.0Hz (F#-40c)
 9 Abraham Rudhall I, Gloucester   1702  18-0-21  48.00"    647.5Hz (E-31c)
10 Thomas Mears II, London         1814  24-3-20  54.375"   576.0Hz (D-34c)

Photo Gallery

The Church - Looking East. Source: Mike Chester The Church - Looking west. Source: Mike Chester
The Church - Looking East The Church - Looking West
The Beauchamp Chapel. Source: Aidan MacRae Thomson The Crypt. Source: Aidan MacRae Thomson
The magnificent Beauchamp Chapel The massive piers in the Crypt 
The Church - Looking East. Source: Mike Chester warwick_mary_fire_small
The Choir and Sanctuary  The Fire Bell
The Bells - Tenor in the middle of the photo  

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