Here is some background to this celebration.
The tower and spire of the church of St James is grossly overloaded by the weight of the eight bells. This is a well-documented design fault going back to 1857 and has resulted in the eight bells never being rung successfully, altogether in full circle mode. In the late 1870’s the decision was taken to install a one man Ellacombe Chiming System which restored in 1999 by Mr Stuart Carter is currently operational but is in need of minor adjustment to the associated bell ropes.
The Ellacombe Chiming system was the brainchild of the Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, Curate of Bitton Parish situated midway between Bristol and Bath. He was born on 26 June 1821. He devised the system because he was disconcerted by the bells of his church being invariably rung by a team of rowdy and perhaps drunken bell ringers. The device, named after him, allows one trusted person to chime all the bells in a church.
To celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of the Rev’d Ellacombe we have been contacted by Mr Mike Gates, the current secretary of Bitton Parish History Group. He is organising a worldwide Ellacombe Bell Chiming celebration on Saturday, 26 June 2021. We have agreed to participate and Stuart Carter and Tim Helps are currently making adjustments to the apparatus to ensure that it is in full working order for the celebration.
I think everyone is looking forward to taking part in the celebration. Some people will using the Ellacombe Chimes, others will be bell ringing or chiming in other ways at 12:00 noon local time. We hear that some people have involved local schools, displays and their local communities.
Here is the record of our participation. We gathered for the ringing with preparation by Stuart, Tim and Rosemarie. We also rang our bells the modern way – electronically and computer driven – activated by the push of a button. Just the job in these Covid driven times. Would the Reverend Ellacombe have been impressed? Some pictures of the system: and participants:
Here is a Facebook record of many of the churches taking part: https://www.facebook.com/groups/135681541720946
At present we have about 80 participants, a number which is growing every day (5 in New Zealand, 8 in Australia, 2 in South Africa, 8 in Canada, 1 in Ireland, 6 in USA, 1 in Gibraltar, 49 in UK).
In order to have an enduring memory of the bicentenary the Bitton Parish History Group are planning to publish a book. This will include the history of the Ellacombe Chimes and of Rev. H.T. Ellacombe together with a page from each of the participants. Here is the page from the Parish of St Mary’s, followed by the page created by Tim Helps for our church.
The following are the key features:
- Publishing by Lulu (also available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble)
- Paperback (hopefully a hardback will also be available)
- About 130 Pages, colour
- Crown Quarto (189 X 246mm)
- Purchase of a single copy of the book will be available world-wide
- Purchase Price: targeting for £10
- Postage cost is typically £4 (similar shipment cost in most other locations such as Australia, USA, Canada)
- If there is any profit, we plan this to go to St Mary’s Church Bitton
- Book to be available to all participants/purchasers before 26th June