|Ringing out to the Heavens|
Tom Bancroft [1881-1954] again worked at Foster’s Mill as a mechanic, and married Amy Bairstow in 1903 at St Paul’s. The couple do not seem to have had any children, and lived at 11 Old Road, the house where Tom's parents had lived. As well as bell ringing, Tom was also a member of the choir and the centenary book mentions that he took part in the 60 year celebration service in 1906 at the church, as an ‘alto’ singer.
Both Tom and Frank Bancroft are mentioned in the Church Centenary Book , as 'other ringers who have done good service in the Belfry, and whose names do not on the Peal- Board.'
The bells themselves had an interesting history. When the church was originally consecrated in 1846, it only had one bell which was a gift from the original founders, and that was the situation for the next 30 years. However in 1876 a further seven bells were bought with money provided by local dignitaries and arrived at the church in ceremony style They had been manufactured by the well know company of Mears and Stainbank, from Whitechapel in London,who had been in existence for over 400 years, and one of their most famous achievements was to produce Big Ben in the Houses of Parliament. The bells made their journey from London by rail, and on arrival at Bradford Station, the railway company specially selected and prepared two waggons to be drawn by six horses, three black and three bays on to Denholme. The bells were carefully positioned on the waggons so that the names of the donors, along with the inscriptions, could be read along the route. As the convoy neared it’s destination it was met by a large gathering people , including a brass band whereupon a procession was formed; the band at the head followed by the vicar, churchwardens, bell committee and finally the ringers. On reaching the village there was a welcoming reception, with the bells being paraded throughout the village prior to installation in the belfry. During installation the original bell, which weighed over 10 cwts was re-hung to become the seventh bell in a peal of eight, and the bells were inaugurated on 4th November 1876 by the Bradford Old Society of Change Ringers with a 'date touch' of 1876 changes of Kent Treble Bob-Major.
|Ladder entrance to Bell Tower|
In 1965, after their periodic inspection , the bells were found to be in a perilous condition, and needed rehanging urgently, because of the serious decay found in the supporting beams. Due to the high estimate for the work required to make the bells safe again, it was decided that the only viable option was to recast a much lighter peal of bells, using metal from the original peal. The reasoning for this decision was twofold; first the cost would be much less because the church would receive payment for the surplus metal, and second, a lighter weight peal would require less reconstruction work in the tower to take the strain of the bells. The old bells weighed three tons, and two tons were sold to the foundry in Whitechapel, who had cast them originally in 1876 and who were given the job of recasting the remaining one ton of metal into a new lighter peal of eight bells. They were dedicated at a service on 16th November 1969.
Sadly, St Paul's closed it's door to the public for the last time in 1998, and the bells became silent forever.
To finish this article I would like to quote an extract from the St Paul's Centenary Book, written in 1946 which I think sums up the work of the bell ringers of St Pauls:
There is a tendency to take the bell ringers for granted, and they seldom get the appreciation they deserve, so when we hear the bells merrily ringing out their message and inviting people to worship , let us gratefully remember that high up in the tower are eight men and boys , with coats off and sleeves rolled up, working silently while the bells are ringing. We may give the message of the bells in Tennyson's words -
More details about my time as a choirboy at St Pauls, and its ultimate closure can be found by clicking here