The Bells of the Church of the Holy Cross
The nationwide inventory of 1553 recorded that the Cruwys Morchard Church Tower housed 4 bells. However, on 18th February 1689 a lightning strike started a devastating fire in the church tower which generated so much heat that the bells melted and some of the molten metal ran out of the church porch. A large quantity of bell-metal, buried to about 4 feet deep, was recovered from the floor of the tower and this was used to partly finance the casting and installation of a new ring of five bells. This work and the restoration of the church and tower was further financed by public subscription raised by a property rate and the names of these properties are recorded on the pews in the church as still seen today.
The five new bells, still being rung now, were commissioned on 28th September 1721 with the father and son bell-founders Evan and William Evans of Chepstow. The Church warden account of 1722 records the amount paid to Evans of £278-9s-0d for the bells and £20 for “clappers, brasses, ironwork, wheels, ropes and for making the stocks and frames”. Those same accounts also show that a fee for transport was paid from Chulmleigh (see extract below) suggesting that the bells were cast there. It is known that Evans was working on the Chulmleigh bells at the time.
At the Cruwys Morchard commissioning party those ringing the bells were given a hogshead of cyder (54 gallons), 97lbs of beef and tobacco and pipes worth 1/-…. some party!
Church Bell Removal 2013
During the removal of the bells in October 2013 an ITV television report was produced for local news. Click to link to the report.
Each of the 6 bells has an inscription cast round the top of the bell.
First (Treble): PROSPERITY TO MY BENEFACTORS
Second: E FLAMMIS RESURGIMUS (We rise again from the flames) maybe alluding to the fire that destroyed their predecessors.
Third:IN ECCLESIA SANCTITAS(Holiness in the Church). The word sanctitas is incised into the bell whereas all other inscriptions are cast proud of the bell. This suggests a modification after the bell was cast.
Fourth:APUD OMNES CHARITAS (Love among all).
Fifth:CONCORDIA INTER FRATRES (Concord among brethren).
Sixth (Tenor):GLORIA DEO IN EXCELSIS SAMUEL CRUWYS ARMIGER (Armiger is someone entitled to a Coat of Arms).
Each of the bells 2 to 6 also have the initials of Evan and William Evans either side of a bell outline and the year 1721, while the 1st bell just has the initials of William Evans, a bell outline and the year 1755.
The Treble bell was added in 1755 by William Evans (the father Evan had died by then) to give a ring of six.
The bells were previously rehung with plain brass bearings and a new oak frame in 1905. This work was completed by Harry Stokes of Woodbury, Devon, a well known craftsman who completed many such installations across the south west. Such an installation would be expected to last about 80 years but it was not until 2010 when it really became necessary for the next major works. By then the plain bearings had become very worn, constantly leaking oil with many knocks and bangs heard when ringing. Although the oak frame was still sound it was time to consider the next re-hang.
Through 2011 and 2012 the bell-ringers were very busy fundraising, organising concerts and open days. Additionally they promoted the art of bell ringing within the local and wider community by hosting educational visits from local schools and holding a series of local history evenings. Some of the ringers also learnt how to teach the skill, particularly to younger ringers.
These efforts resulted in a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which covered about half of the total cost and together with the local fundraising and many smaller grants from other groups, trusts and institutions the project went ahead.
In October 2013 John Taylor & Company were appointed and the work started by lowering the bells down the tower to be taken off to the Loughborough bell foundry. Just one bellhanger from Taylors was ably assisted by bellringers and volunteers from the parish to complete this work. At the foundry new clapper mechanisms were fitted with new headstocks which retain the old canons on top of the bell and also allow the bells to be 1/8th turned so that clapper wear will be NE-SW. The old wheels were recycled by being resoled and re-rimmed and there wer all stays, sliders and pulley mechanisms as well as sealed-for-life roller bearings. The bells returned in January 2013, in the snow, and were reinstalled into the old frame with all the new equipment by the same Taylors bellhanger and parish volunteers.
We now have a beautiful ring of six bells which can be easily rung by young and old alike and which are now enjoyed by many visiting ringers as well as hosting several Devon Guild of Bellringer events.
For bell weights the bells are listed in Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers.