The Bells

For a century the bells at St Mary’s Church were the lightest ring of eight in a church in the world. They were cast by John Warner & Sons London 1874. Bells 1-7 are each inscribed with a one word inscription which makes up the phrase “Come Let Us Make A Joyful Noise”. The eighth bell, the tenor, has a lozenge-shaped shield with three battle-axes which is the arms of the Newton family of Barrells. The lozenge-shape indicates a female owner of the property and the bell is also inscribed with the initials EN & MRN (Elizabeth & Mary Rose Newton).


Redditch Indicator – Sat 16th January 1875.


On Monday the 4th instant,James E. Hawkes, son of Mr. Thomas Hawkes, whom he was assisting to hang the bells, at the new Church at Ullenhall, fell from the scaffold offered for the purpose, a distance of nearly 38 feet; he was at once removed to his home at Henley, but his injuries were of such a serious nature, that he died on the following Wednesday night; and on the 8th instant, an inquest was held on his body at the Police Station, Henley, before Mr. T.B. Couchman, the County Coroner. The Jury were selected partly from Ullenhall and partly from Henley, Mr J.W. Cockley, being the foreman. The following evidence was taken:

Thomas Hawkes, sworn, said: I have seen the body of my son, James Edwin Hawkes, he was 26 last birthday, and was working for Mr Morton, the contractor for Ullenhall Church; as far as I know up to that morning he was in his usual bodily and mental health; I did not consider the work exceptionally dangerous; it is not usual to fence scaffolding; I think the scaffolding was good enough for the job.

Tom Maddy, sworn, said: I am foreman of the works at Ullenhall Church; deceased had been at work for me one week; the scaffolding had been up since the early part of September; it was strong and fit to carry great weights; was 5 feet wide; it was, and is now quite sound; it is wider than average scaffolding; I was on the ground at the foot of the scaffolding and saw deceased fall. At the time of the accident deceased was stepping backwards from the stonework on to the scaffold; I think it is safest for men to work on unprotected scaffold. Deceased was perfectly sober so far as I could see; the actual work he was engaged upon was helping to fix the bells; the height of the scaffold was 37 feet 6 inches from the ground.

Henry Jones, sworn, said; I live at Ullenhall, and am working for Mr Morton; I am a bricklayer and accustomed to work on scaffolding; the ordinary width of scaffold is 3 feet – this was about 5 feet – 6 planks instead of 3; that was deceased’s first day on the scaffold; he seemed quite to understand the scaffolding work; I was on the scaffold and saw the incident; he stepped back in an incautious way and not like an experienced man. It was impossible to help him; he had no appearance of having been drinking; he appeared a little bit nervous; I don’t consider a rope round a scaffold any protection; the height of the scaffold was 37 ft 6 inches. It was altogether a better scaffold than usual.

Mr. James Arthur, surgeon, sworn, said: On Monday last, about 10 o’ clock a.m., I was called to see deceased; he was lying in a room at the Spur, Ullenhall, in a state of shock; from severe wounds of some kind he was crying out in great pain and begged not to be moved; I attended him to the time of his death. I have today made a post-mortem examination – all the abdominal organs were unusually fatty, especially the heart; the bladder was ruptured and the pelvis bone broken; there were no other internal injuries. My opinion is that he died from rupture of the bladder and extensive shock to the nervous system; the head was not injured; he was an unhealthy subject from excessive internal fat; all the other organs were healthy and not injured; the spine was not injured. He made no complaint about his work or employment.

Verdict, “Accidentally killed”.

Redditch Indicator – Sat 16th January 1875.

James Hawkes was buried in Wootton Wawen Churchyard and his grave reads “In memory of James Edwin Hawkes, Died from a fall from scaffold at Ullenhall Church”.

Church Bell Restoration – 1970s

The Restoration – Article written by Mr Fred Colley in 1977

At the May 1976 PCC meeting a request was made for help to clean the belfry, as I was interested and willing to lend a hand I accompanied Les Richmond to the tower where he showed me around. I realised that it needed immediate attention and the next four Saturdays I spent brushing down cobwebs etc from the walls and clearing a space in the ringing chamber, giving passage to the belfry where the birds had been nesting for some time. It was at this time I took over the winding of the clock and became interested in the bells, having seen the treble lying on the ringing chamber floor. I studied the framework and bells to decide the best course of action, but at this time the clock developed some faults, and took several months to right.

The repairs to the bells began in Jan 1977 and I intended to put four bells into commission. No.7 was the first bell. This required a new stay, new rope and the headstock reinforced. When this was completed and tested, I found that the bolts securing the bell to the headstock were breaking up. Each bell has four of these bolts, all special to each particular bell, so I faced up to the challenge and made and fitted new ones.

The next bells were Nos. 2, 5, and 6. These three required the same attention and as they had no sliders, it was back to the drawing board. I made 4 sliders to my own design and on test were found to be satisfactory. I was not happy with the sound of these 4 bells, so decided to re-hang No.1 the treble. A new headstock was made and fitted, complete with the new bolts and slider etc. during the Easter break, making 5 bells to ring by mid April.

I was still not happy about the sound so decided to repair No.8 the tenor. The same amount of work was needed as for No.7 and was completed by mid May, by which time the two new bell ropes arrived and I realised that we needed two more and these were placed on order.

A member of the Coventry Guild of Church Bell Ringers had heard of my efforts and the Guild were eager to help complete the eight in order to ring a quarter peal for the Jubilee celebrations. In their annual report Ullenhall bells were unringable. After weighing up the situation I decided to go it alone and finish the task by myself, leaving the Guild to tallow the ropes and bind loose ends.

There was quite a lot of work involved to repair these last two bells, including the alterations to the cables on the clock, which had to be re-routed involving extra pulleys. The rope pulley for No.3 was fitted in the wrong position, a timber beam was made and fitted to carry this pulley in its correct position. The wire netting in the aperture was removed to allow the wheel to turn freely, sliders, stays and bolts etc. to make and fit, and then at last eight bells were ready to ring on May 17th. But on May 27th the rope pulley on No.4 presented a problem, so back to the drawing board to design steel straps to secure the four pulleys which were attached to the belfry floor.

This was duly completed by June 2nd and the Guild ringers came along on Jubilee morning and rang a quarter peal which took 43 mins. There is still work to be done to make it 100%, but this will need in the region of £200 to complete. The cost to date is under £80.