Towednack Parish Church


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A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BELLS AND RINGING AT TOWEDNACK

The Ringers: Autumn 2014 This is currently a work in progress and will be updated. Source materials are two surveys of all the bells in Cornwall undertaken in the 1870s and in the 1970s plus also the Guild's Annual reports dating from 1902.

Dunkin's 1872 survey, published in 1878, records three medieval bells at Towednack with the following inscriptions and comments:

  1. ANNO DOMINI 1667
    (broken at rim, cast by Roger Purdue*, diameter at mouth 25 inches)
  2. W : CURNOW : R : BARAGWANATH : CHURCH : WARDENS 1744
    (broken, diameter at mouth 32½ inches)
  3. + Sancti spiritus assit nobis gracia
    (...the initial cross was known to be used by t.g. a medieval bellfounder. This is a fine bell and happily still sound. The others, I am told were broken at a wedding. Diameter at the mouth 34½ inches).

In 1904 when Towednack became an independent parish these bells were in a ruinous condition and had not been rung in 50 years. In 1905 the bells were recast slightly larger to form the back 3 of our present ring of 8 in the key of A flat. The original inscriptions were retained with the exception of "1744" on the original 2nd and with the addition of the bellfounders - J. Warner & Sons, London, 1905. At the same time a fourth bell was added with the inscription - W. Whitley, Vicar. H. Dunstan Jr. W. J. Hollow, Ch Wardens.

When researching this history I had initially assumed that the Hugh William Dunstan on the Memorial inside the church was the third generation of Hugh Dunstan living at Churchtown Farm. However, in April 2016 we were visited by family historians, Roger and Margaret Truscott. It seems that Hugh William Dunstan was in fact the son of another Hugh Dunstan, who farmed at Coldharbour and was cousin to our benefactor, Hugh Dunstan Jr., who farmed at Churchtown. So four Hugh Dunstans in all and probably as much confusion then as now. H. Dunstan Jr was largely responsible for the 1905 restoration of the bells and for the ringing at Towednack for over 40 years. Many readers will have seen the archive footage of haymaking on his farm at Churchtown in the 1930s. His cousin's son, the aforementioned Hugh William Dunstan, was also a chorister and bellringer. He served in WW2 and was killed at the crossing of the Rhine on 27th March 1945. By 1946 Hugh was living in St Ives and he died in 1947 having served as Treasurer to the Guild from 1934.

Back in 1912 two new Warner bells were added, the 3rd and 4th of the present ring, with the inscriptions "Te Deum Laudamus" and "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus, Deus, Omnipotens" respectively. The front two Gillet & Johnson bells were a gift from Hugh Dunstan in 1947 and were inscribed in memory of his parents. The Treble - "In Memory of Hugh Dunstan O.B. 1906. Sanctus Tewennocus. Ora Pro Nobis." - and the 2nd - "In Memory of Mary Dunstan, O.B. 1882. Venite Exultemus Domino." Finally, in 1973, the bells were rehung on roller bearings giving us the fine light ring of 8 we hear today.

In December 1905 the dedication of the initial ring of 4 was reported in The Bell News and Ringers' Record as having taken place on November 11th that year. Although there is now reason to doubt the accuracy of that date (it was probably the 8th) it was nevertheless a useful prompt to the present band to order new muffles just in time for the 2014 Remembrance Services and special centenary commemoration for WW1. The 1905 dedication was attended by clergy from Hayle, St Ives, Lelant, St Hilary, Zennor, Halsetown and Penzance, and also by Edward Hain MP and the Mayor of St Ives. Clearly it was a big event. In spite of it being mid-week, over 100 people sat down to tea in Hugh's "spacious barn" and then there was Evensong to follow. The barn referred to is almost certainly the middle building of the traditional E-shaped farmyards at Churchtown dated 1879 and now derelict. It is the only part of the E with a wooden floor so would not have been used for livestock. Readers of a certain age with equine interests may remember it as the feed and tack room when Churchtown was a DIY livery yard and it was also used as the girls' dorm for PC and Riding Club summercamps in the latter part of the last century.

Back in 1905 the bells were rung throughout the day by Messrs E. Lawrey, R.J. Boase, John Stewart, F. Lawrey and W.H. Boase. These ringers were from Ludgvan, presumably because the new local band were still in training. "...After the evening service the bells rang out again. The night was beautifully fine, with a bright moon shining calm and clear. Walking down the road towards Trendrine the effect was very beautiful. The sweet-toned bells echoed and re-echoed with marvellous regularity, and left the impression - and a charming impression too - that there was a peal of eight bells going." The author of this report is not identified but probably lived at Trendrine and may have been one of the new band at Towednack.

The band does not appear to have affiliated to the Guild before 1913 and may have been prompted to do so by the augmentation to 6 bells in 1912. The Towednack entry in the 17th Guild Report for the year ending 31st August 1915 notes - "The practices have been given up during the War. 'The Peace Bell' has been tolled every day at noon. One member has enlisted." The enlisted ringer would appear to be F. Pope, DCLI - presumably Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry. The Guild report was not produced again until 1923 when, with the exception of F. Pope, the band listed in 1915 are still ringing. H. Dunstan, Hugh Dunstan, T.A. Hollow, J. (possibly J.C.) James and O.H. Lander. By 1923 they have been joined by T, Poynter, G. Richards, C. Thomas, A. Boase, S.T. Eddy, J. Richards and J. Thomas. With a few others coming and going most of these ringers continued into the 1930s. At the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 the following ringers are listed - H. Dunstan, T.A. Hollow, J.M. Richards, R.H. Richards, W. Richards, J.H. Roberts, A. Craze, E.B. Pearce, A. Boase, L. Ninnis, D. Williams, V. Williams, R. Williams, K. Hutchens.

These names are listed in the hope that readers may have more information to share and possibly photos of ringers and ringing events or other memorabilia hidden away in family archives. The present band would very much like to know more and to make copies of anything associated with the ringing at Towednack - contact marypjones50@gmail.com

** Roger Purdue - Bristol bellfounder 1637 - 1669

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