Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

May 2011

This months News



Village History

Among Evelyn Colyer’s writings is an article entitled BELLS, which refers both to her early childhood in Oxhill, and also later at Quinton, where she spent the greater part of her life.  I have made extracts from her article that relate to the Oxhill bells of long ago, with my interlinking comments put in square brackets [ ] A.H.

“When I was a child living in Oxhill…., the “pancake bell” was rung at noon every Shrove Tuesday, to remind housewives to begin cooking their pancakes.

That old custom has died out, together with the “pudding bell” which was rung every Sunday morning as soon as the congregation had left the church, which was usually at about 12.30, because prayers were long and every sermon seemed interminable!

Our lives – and deaths – were dominated by bells.  When anyone died, the tenor (“big”) bell tolled one deep solemn note for a man; followed respectively by the same number of strokes as the sum of years of the departed.

People would stop work, listen, and say “Ah, poor so-and-so’s gone”.

One custom which is still observed in certain villages in the “clashing” of the bells at the finish of a wedding peal; the ringers grasp their sallies and stand ready, then when the Tower Master gives the word, they all pull together.  The result was deafening!”

[The focus of Evelyn’s article moves now to Quinton where her father was to be Tower Master for many years, and several other members of her family became accomplished bellringers.  She writes of the years when no ringing could take place because the Quinton steeple became unsafe, but after its restoration they were able to resume the “old custom” of ringing the bells at 7 a.m. on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day before Holy Communion at 8 a.m, (to be followed by further ringing for Matins and Evensong).  Was this old custom observed also at Oxhill I wonder?  Returning again to her time at Oxhill, she continues as follows:]

“School bells were important during my early childhood.  There was great competition to ring the bell before school opened in the morning, and again after dinner; the first child to arrive had that privilege.

The headmistress had a small dome-shaped bell, with a round knob on top which she smote sharply when she wished to restore order; she also used it to recall children to classes after play.

The bell all the children loved to hear was carried by an ancient tramp, who appeared about twice each year, pushing a wooden box mounted on old pram wheels.  This box was festooned with home-made windmills constructed of stiff, brightly coloured paper nailed to wooden sticks, and when the old man sounded his hand-bell, the children would run out of their cottages with old clothes and empty bottles, clamouring to exchange them for windmills.  Sometimes a child would take a rabbit-skin in exchange for 2d and a windmill.  Such wealth!

When I married a marine engineer, and often stayed with him on board ship, my life was again regulated by bells, just as it was in my childhood.” 

[Evelyn ends her article by saying that to her “the sound of church bells is one of the sweetest things in life”.  She was actively involved with her church throughout her life, and it was a sound in which she must have often rejoiced.]

Ann Hale

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Last modified: May 14, 2011