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Essex Association | The Rev Thomas L Papillon | Further highlights



A photograph of a peal board which hangs in the ringing chamber. It gives details of the 7th peal rung at Writtle since the old bells were installed in 1811.

A peal board is a painted board recording the ringing of a peal, with details of the peal length, date, method, names of ringers, and perhaps a dedication.



The founding of the Essex Association

On Friday 9 May 1879, a preliminary meeting was held at Writtle Vicarage to discuss the desirability of forming an association of ringers of Essex. The Rev J B Seaman presided and the meeting was attended by ten ringers from six towers in the Chelmsford district. A number of resolutions were unanimously passed and it was agreed to hold a meeting the following month. On Whit Monday 2 June 1879 about thirty ringers assembled at Writtle to take part in the inaugural meeting of the Essex Association of Change Ringers. The names of the following eleven towers were given as being in union with the Association at its inception: Bocking, Boreham, Braintree, Coggeshall, Colchester, Maldon, Romford, Springfield, Widford, Witham and Writtle. The Association predates the Chelmsford Diocese by some 35 years. [With acknowledgement to Change Ringing in Essex by Joe Roast, 1978, now out of print].  Further information about the history of the Essex Association can be found here.

Membership of the Association now stands at just over 1,000.  The Association AGM is now held at Chelmsford on the May Day Bank Holiday.  There is usually an opportunity to ring the Cathedral bells before an invited band ring for the Service.  After the meeting there is an opportunity to ring at a number of towers in one of the six Districts. In 2004, the Association celebrated its 125th year with a special lunch and service at Writtle.  The Association also hosted the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers Annual Meeting at which over 200 delegates from all over the world attended. 

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The Rev Thomas L Papillon MA

In 1884, Thomas Leslie Papillon, aged 43, and for the previous 15 years Fellow and Tutor at New College, Oxford, received notification of his appointment to the College's benefice of All Saints, Writtle. On his first visit to the parish, he found the bells in good order but few ringers and little or no change ringing practised. It was at this turning point in his career that he decided to take up ringing. While still in Oxford he obtained the services of a Mr Joseph Field who, with lashed clappers, gave him instruction in the elements of bell control, and later spent a fortnight at Writtle initiating the reverend gentlemen, together with some younger men, into the mysteries of change ringing. [With acknowledgement to Change Ringing in Essex by Joe Roast, 1978, now out of print]    

In the Writtle Parish News of January 1886, Papillon wrote "We have an unusually fine "ring" of bells and it has been my wish since I first knew that I was coming here to raise the standard of ringing among us, and to get together a band of ringers who would take a real interest in learning and promoting scientific change-ringing. After a year's trial, and some disappointments, I think we have at last in a fair way to make progress, and but for the irregularity of attendance during the visit of an instructor whom I procured from Oxford, we should be much further advanced than we are. There is still room for one or two more young men who will learn to ring, and will then stick to it for its own sake. I daresay there are many who would like to look in now and then, but would not care to come regularly, and in the end would drop it altogether; but these are not the men we want, nor will such men ever make ringers. Meanwhile, I think it is a reproach to a parish which posses the finest bells in the county, that for years past only strangers have attempted to ring a peal upon them."  

On Boxing Day 1888, Papillon realised his first ambition when "the object which has been kept steadily in view for the last three years was attained, viz, the ringing of a peal upon our own bells, by our own men, without any assistance from outside.  The band met at 7am in the tower, and started at about 7.15; but at 8 o'clock were obliged to stop, a 'bob' having called too soon.  Not discouraged, however, they started again, and had the satisfaction of bringing the peal [5040, Grandsire Triples, Holt's 10-part] round just after 11am, in 2 hours 52 minutes.   The ringers stood as follows: William E Emery, treble; Joseph J Everard, 2; Arthur Edwards, 3; Frederick Radley, 4; Robert Wood, 5; Rev Thomas L Papillon, 6; William Lincoln (conductor), 7; Alfred Bonnington, tenor.  The last time that a peal was rung by eight Writtle men was on February 25th, 1821".  

The Rev Papillon later became the Secretary and Treasurer of the Essex Association from 1886-1900 and Master from 1901-1908

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Extract from the Churchwardens’ Accounts of 1588-1643. The earliest known reference to bellringing here at Writtle.

"5 bells - 11 6s 8d paid to John Dyer, bell founder of Chelmsford, for casting of the great bell. 6s 8d paid for carrying the great bell to Chelmsford and for bringing her home again. 6s 8d paid for helping load the great bell and weigh her. 3s 6d paid for meat and drink when carrying bell to Chelmsford and weighing her. 12d paid to John Pamplin for 4 bell ropes weighing 48lbs. 3s 4d paid to Goodman Dyer’s dinner and his men when he did take down the bell. 10s paid to Francis Smyth for making the great bell clapper. 5s 2d paid to ringers for meat and drink on the Coronation Day."

Some further highlights over the years

  • First reference to eight bells (1758)
  • Robert Patrick of Woodford furnished an estimate for recasting the bells (1787)
  • Tower collapsed destroying the ring of eight bells (1800)
  • Tower rebuilt (1802)
  • New bell frame and ring of eight bells installed by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel (1811)
  • First peal by a band all resident in the village (1821)
  • Inaugural meeting of the Essex Association of Change Ringers (1879)
  • Major overhaul by Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel at a cost of 18 18s; and second peal by band all resident in the village (1888)
  • 2nd, 6th and Tenor recast when found to have cracks in crowns (1916)
  • Roof beam collapses into 5th causing crack. Recast and rehung at a cost of 127 10s (1953)
  • Centenary Day of the Essex Association of Change Ringers (1979)
  • Major overhaul and bells rehung on ball bearings at a cost of 3,800 (1979)
  • Main gudgeon on tenor bell fractures due to low temperatures causing bell to fall into pit and considerable damage to the wheel. Wheel repaired, new gudgeon and bell rehung at a cost of 650 (1982)
  • Bells inspected by Whitechapel Bell Foundry ("bells appear sound and are quite good for tone...the overall effect when all eight bells are rung is good") (1991)
  • Some frame movement (old age) makes the achievement of good striking a little difficult
  • Peal rung with 5 members all resident in the village. Thought to be the most residents in a peal for over 60 years (1998)
  • First Peal (of Minor at Farnham) rung by members of the Sunday Service Band for over 60 years (2000)
  • PCC give go ahead for proposal to augment the bells (2000)
  • Peal of Grandsire Triples, rung on 200th anniversary of the collapse of the tower, by Sunday Service band (2000)
  • Writtle All Saints Bell Appeal launched in March (2001)
  • Appeal passes 100,000 in donations and pledges (2002)
  • Chancellor signs the Faculty (2003)
  • Last peal on the old bells before removal (2004)
  • Eight bells removed and old frame lifted under the tower roof, new frame and bells installed (2004)
  • New bells dedicated (2004)
  • EACR celebrate 125th anniversary with a special lunch and service (2004)
  • First peal on the new bells (2004)
  • First Peal of Surprise on the Bells (2007)
  • Work completed on the Tower roof and sound lantern (2009)

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