History and Anecdotes



Original six(?) bells hung in the church.


John Prinn the elder, a London Barrister, came to Cheltenham and was well known for his good works in the town. In 1688 he negotiated to buy Forden House and extensive lands from the ancient Greville family, who had fallen on hard times. He acquired the house in 1702 and totally rebuilt it, turning it into Charlton Manor. He acquired a lot more land and did a lot of improvements to the area. The Eagles on the Cirencester Road, originally faced Sandy Lane, then a route from Cheltenham to Seven Springs to join the main road to London.

He 1699 he paid for three-hourly chime bells erected in the Parish Church of Cheltenham. These were set to the tune of the 113th psalm. (Norman’s History of Cheltenham).

Prinn was not the London barrister pilloried with his ears cut off and his nose slit under Charles I and Laud. That was William Prynne a well known dissenter.

John Prinn was like his father William Prinn a barrister of the Inns of Court. The Prinns came from Wiltshire to Cheltenham and held many legal office in the town. They are buried in a vault in Cheltenham Church adjacent to the Grevilles. The Prinns were colaterally related to William Prynne the dissenter who lost his ears and had his nose slit. That did not stop him and he was a member of the long parliament, which opposed Charles II.


A ring of eight cast by Abraham Rudhall I was installed.

Sep. 30, 1813

… At a late full and respectable Vestry Meeting, convened for the consideration of the subject, it was clearly demonstrated, that by judicious alteration, the Church could be rendered capable of containing four hundred more than it at present receives; which might be effected by removing the middle galleries and belfry, and by raising and enlarging the side galleries …
Cheltenham Chronicle.

Nov. 8, 1821

Ringers’ Feast.On Monday Nov. 5, the Cheltenham Ringers held their Annual Feast, at Yearsley’s Hotel and Boarding House; when upwards of forty respectable gentlemen, comprising the principal ringers in Gloucestershire, assembled. The dinner afforded the highest satisfaction, and shortly after the cloth had been removed, the company subscribed 100 guineas for the purpose of having two new bells added to our belfry. – The utmost harmony prevailed throughout the evening.
Cheltenham Chronicle.

Dec. 13 1821

New BellsThe projected improvement in our Belfry, recalls an event demonstrative of the antiquity of Cheltenham, for we find that the bells were originally hung in the year 1680, one hundred and forty years ago. – We had occasion, a few weeks since, to notice the subscription entered into by the Gloucestershire ringers, at their dinner at Yearsley’s; and a day or two afterwards a Vestry meeting was held for the purpose of considering the state of the Parish Bells; when after a strict survey it was declared to be absolutely necessary that the Bells should be re-cast and new Timber supplied. – It was likewise agreed and resolved upon that the number of Bells should be increased to TEN or TWELVE: – a measure certainly calculated to enhance the variety, harmony, and beauty of our chimes, as in twelve Bells we have five octaves – in eight but one. At the Vestry Meeting to which we now allude, a Committee was appointed to wait upon the Inhabitants and to solicit Contributions, – in addition to the Ringers’ Donation, a considerable sum was subscribed at the Meeting, and we are quite confident – when the great improvement of our Belfry is contemplated, and when, the flourishing state of Cheltenham, even in the depth of Winter, requires some acknowledgment, – that nothing will be wanting on the part of our Townsmen to forward an object of so much general good.
Cheltenham Chronicle.

Nov. 14, 1822

Vestry Meeting.On Thursday last [Nov. 7, 1822] at the most numerous Vestry Meeting we ever remember in Cheltenham, the present state of the belfry of our Parish Church was finally taken into consideration.. – In a parish of such an extent as Cheltenham, it is but natural to expect that a great variety of opinions should exist, nor do we conceive that we have, in the least, swerved from the line of public duty in leaving the question in the only fair mode of decision – the votes of a Vestry Meeting – instead of rendering our columns the vehicle of communications from which a controversy must have ensued, uninteresting to all but the parties immediately concerned, and of no ultimate utility or advantage. – We now give a list of votes upon each side:

It was moved by Dr. NEWELL and seconded by Col. RIDDELL, –

That it was inexpedient to increase the number of Parish Bells:-

For   the Motion

Against   it

(99   names)

(39   names)

Cheltenham Chronicle.

April 29, 1824

Opening of the New Peal of Eight Bells at Cheltenham.The opening of these bells took place on Monday the 26th inst. About seven o’clock in the morning, the Cheltenham Society of Ringers rose the bells in very fine style, and left them for the companies. About eight o’clock, the Painswick Youths ascended the steeple, and rung a new and complete peal of Treble Bob Major, consisting of 5856 changes, being the same number of changes as there are hours in the first eight months of a leap year, having the treble on lead as many times at hand and back-stroke as there are days and nights in a leap year, and having the sixth bell twenty-four times wrong and twenty-four times right; which was boldly struck and finely brought round in three hours and 57 minutes. The above peal was composed and conducted by Mr. Wm. Estcourt, being the first Peal of Treble Bob ever rung in that style of composition.


There were several excellent touches at intervals by other companies during the day. The whole of the companies, with many of their friends, partook of an excellent dinner at the Eight Bells Inn and the day was spent with the greatest conviviality. – The above peal of bells was cast by Mr. J. Rudhall, of Gloucester, and hung by Mr. T. Forty, Builder, Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Chronicle.

Sept. 26, 1833

Change Ringing.A short time since, the ringers of this town by their exertions, purchased two additional bells, which have been placed in the steeple, free of any expense to the parish, making a peal of ten, which is, we understand, pronounced by judges to be inferior to few in the kingdom. On Monday last [23rd September], the new peal was opened with a scientific specimen of change ringing, performed by a company formed of the Cheltenham and Birmingham ringers, who rang a peal of new treble bob royals, comprising 6000 changes, in three hours and forty-three minutes. [snip] The above is the longest peal of treble bob royals ever rung in this county. [snip]
Cheltenham Chronicle.

Nov. 28, 1842

The Cheltenham Society of Change Ringers celebrated the triumph of British valour in the East by a joyous peal from the bells of the Parish Church, last Thursday evening. The “firings” were frequent and spirited.
Cheltenham Chronicle. [Note: the reference is to the end of the 1st Afghan War.]

Mar. 13 1843

On Thursday last, while the Cheltenham Society of Change Ringers were occupied in their melodious vocation, most suddenly and alarmingly, a “change came o’er the spirit’ of their operations – the timbers, on which were hung the tenor bell of the peal gave way, and the ‘Great Tom’ of Cheltenham fell, with all the gravity and sound becoming his weight and metal, on to the floor of his apartment; there, luckily for the Society beneath, he thought proper to remain; and we are happy to report that, although the old gentleman’s descent from his elevated station was as unexpected as it was ominous, he has received no fracture, simple or compound; and that the parties to whom he has always been of the greatest service, raised him once more to his former high position, where it is hoped he will long remain to join in the holy call to prayer – the joy-peal of the bridal – or the triumphant firings of the victory.
Cheltenham Journal.

July 13 1846

The Midnight Bell-ringing

At the dismal hour of twelve on Wednesday night (i.e. 8 July), or rather verging towards Thursday morning, our townsmen were aroused from their slumbers by the sonorous sound of a solitary bell, in the steeple of the parish church, which was soon after increased to a merry Peal. Many inadvertently supposed at first that a fire had broken out in some part of the town; but when all the bells were put in motion, the alarm in some measure subsided; but no one could conjecture the cause of this seemingly “untoward event”.

On enquiring in the morning it turned out that the nocturnal alarm above alluded to was intended to celebrate the triumph of the Manchester and Southampton line having passed through the procrastinated ordeal of the most inveterate opposition. But why all the uproar at such unreasonable hours? Could no time be selected than the “witching hour of night” for expressing joy at the signal success of the venture? We would beg to suggest to the Churchwardens – who, by the bye, seem to be merely tyros in their new profession – that day is the most appropriate and congenial time for such outbreaks of enthusiastic delight or for celebrating such events; and we presume that the inhabitants generally would prefer the postponement of good news, however interesting, until the morning, rather than be roused from their rest in such an unseemly manner, or that the town should be driven from its propriety at such unusual hours.
Cheltenham Journal.

Feb. 29 1852

The peal of Steadman [sic.] caters, rung by the Painswick Society, conducted by Mr Estcourt, on the 16th inst, at St. Mary’s Church, Cheltenham, was, we are assured, one of the worst struck peals ever rung, there not being 500 good changes in the whole 5,081 represented to have been accomplished.
Bell’s Life in London.

Aug. 16 1855

The clapper of the tenor bell in St Mary’s Church fell out this evening, and considerably marred the music of the “merry peal”.
John Goding’s History of Cheltenham 1863 [Chronological events]

July 27 1867

the Cheltenham society of change ringers’ visit to Worcester.—The members of this society took their annual excursion on Monday last, on which occasion Worcester was selected as the rendezvous. On their arrival, they were met at the station by a number of friends, and, after breakfasting together, they proceeded to All Saints’ Church, the tower of which they ascended, and rang several touches of “Steadman’s cators.” Whilst so engaged, the Rev. Canon Cattley made his appearance amongst them, and, with his characteristic urbanity and kindness, invited the whole of the company, together with the members of the Worcester company and several personal friends to a dinner at the Golden Lion. After leaving All Satins’ Church, the Cheltonians ascended the tower of St. Helen’s, and there rang a quarter peal of “Stedman’s triples,” in a style which elicited the approval of connoisseurs.

The Rev. Canon Cattley then accompanied the visitors over the Cathedral, and great interest was manifested in the inspection of the tower. The rev. gentleman pointed out the various objects of interest, and also the many improvements which would result from the restoration of that beautiful edifice, but more particularly he dwelt upon the salutary changes which would be effected in the tower. Amongst the many other improvements which would be made, the rev. gentleman dwelt with great interest upon the fact that the peal would consist of twelve bells, the tenor of which will exceed forty-six hundred weight, while the clock bell will weigh something over four tons; and in connection with this matter, he reminded the visitors that about £1,000 was still required to carry out the work in its integrity [sic]. He also observed that on the occasion of the opening—perhaps twelve months hence—twelve amateur companologians [sic], consisting of clergymen of the Established Church, would ascent the tower and open the peal. The dinner which had been provided by the rev. gentleman’s orders at the Golden Lion, was of a most sumptuous character. The chair was taken by the Rev. Canon Cattley, supported by Mr. J. Parker, Mr. Pidcock, jun., Mr. Gardener, and several other gentlemen, who, from the observations which fell from them, were evidently great supporters of the science of change-ringing. After the repast, which included all the delicacies of the season, the customary loyal and patriotic toasts were given and heartily drunk.—The Chairman then proceeded to propose the health of the visitors from Cheltenham, which was responded to by the senior member, Mr. Charles Freeman.—The health of the Worcester Society was proposed, and enthusiastically received by the whole company, and responded to by the senior member, Mr. Buford [sic].—The Cheltenham company rang a splendid course of “Cinques” on the hand bells in D, about the same key in which the new bells of the Cathedral will be cast. After this the Cheltenham and Worcester societies amalgamated, and rang a second course on the Worcester hand bells, which was pronounced to be a fine-toned peal, and which was received with great applause. We ought not to omit to say that the ringing of the Cheltenham society was conducted by Mr. J. Belcher, and that they are anxious to convey their hearty thanks to the Rev. Canon Cattley for the interest he manifests in the science of companology [sic], and to express a hope that many others will be found to follow the example he has so nobly set. (Berrow’s Worcester Journal, Sat. 27 July 1867)

Dec. 1, 1877

New Guild of Ringers

The following circular has been issued to the clergy of Gloucestershire:

‘Rev. and dear Sir, – It is proposed to form, in the Diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, and Association of Church Change-Ringers, similar to those already established in Devonshire, Durham, and Norfolk.

‘The Archdeacon of Gloucester has already signified his approbation of the scheme, and promised to preside at a preliminary meeting on the subject.

‘The following clergy have also kindly promised their co-operation, and, if possible, their attendance; Rev. Canon Bell, Rector of Cheltenham; Rev. John Emeris, Rector of Upton St. Leonard’s; Rev. Thomas Keble, Vicar of Bisley; Rev. Alfred Kent, Vicar of Coln St. Aldwyn’s; Rev. Hemming Robeson, Vicar of Tewkesbury.

‘It is hoped that you may be able to give your aid, and, together with any of your parishioners interested in the science of Change-Ringing, to be present at the meeting, which will be held in the Cathedral Chapter-room, Gloucester, on Tuesday, the 8th of January, 1878.

‘The chief objects of the Association would be (1st) The promotion of change-ringing on church bells in the diocese, and its introduction in those places where it has hitherto been unknown. (2nd) To offer facilities for gatherings among the various Societies of Ringers already existing. (3rd) The recognition of ringers as Church workers.

‘Communications on the-subject are earnestly invited, and may be addressed to –

‘G.H. Phillott, Trevor House, Leckhampton Rd., Cheltenham
‘C.D.P. Davies, Eton House, Wellington Street, Cheltenham

Hon. Secs. pro tem.
Church Bells.

May 24 1883

The Cheltenham branch of the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association rang a 720 of Grandsire Minor at the parish church of Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire, the local ringers averring it could not be done, on account of the 5th and tenor being in such bad order.
Bell News. [And they have not been allowed back since!]

Dec. 15, 1883

At St. Mary’s, Cheltenham, Gloucester

After a silence of some six months or so, the bells of St. Mary’s Parish Church have now been rehung, and on Monday week they were formally dedicated to the public service by a ceremony in the belfry. A few months since the bells were condemned as faulty and unsafe, and Canon Bell made an appeal to the public in aid of a fund for their restoration. This appeal has met with a liberal response. The Cheltenham belfry contains ten bells, eight of which were erected in 1824, and the remaining two ten years later. All have been rehung, with new fittings, and two new bells have been placed in the tower – the second and fourth. The second was badly cracked, and the fourth was a bad bell, and it was thought well to recast both at the same tine. The result of recasting has been two excellent bells, the purity and strength of the second (so competent authorities aver) being particularly noticeable. The work of recasting was done by Messrs. Mears and Stainbank, Whitechapel. The bells first used in the church were cast by the Rudhalls, and one of the inscriptions on the old bells, which were recast at the commencement of the century, ran, –

‘Abraham Rudhall cast all we,
One thousand six hundred and twenty-three.’

After the lapse of two centuries the bells were recast at the same establishment, and the inscription with the firm by the present recasting is still kept up. The tenor bell of the ring is a very fine one, of mellow tone. in 1821 it was cracked while ringing for service, and was recast with the others a short while afterwards. Originally it bore the inscription, –

‘I to church the living call,
And to the grave do summon all;’

but when recast the inscription was altered to:

‘I call in prayer, the living to combine,
The Dead must hear a louder sound than mine.’

The new bells, now included in the ring of ten, have the usual inscriptions upon them, giving the date of recasting, the name of the founders, and so forth; and No. 2 bell also records that at the time Charles Dent Bell was Rector of the town, and George Parsonage was Mayor; and bears the inscription, ‘In Nomine Dei. Hinc clarior et fortior.’ The fourth bell is inscribed with the names of the Churchwardens of the parish, Messrs. B. Griffith and G.M. Kite; and the conductor of the ringers, Mr. J. Belcher; and F. White, bell-hanger. In addition to the restoration of the bells, a great improvement has been effected in the belfry. The ringing room has been newly painted and coloured, and the floor and stairs repaired. It is proposed to fix a chiming apparatus in the tower, by means of which one man may chime all the bells for church on a Sunday, thus obviating the necessity of a number of ringers, as in the old-fashioned manner, when the clappers were pulled by a cord against the bell. The new apparatus will be erected after Christmas. The total cost of the whole work will be about £200, of which about £150 has been subscribed and expended.

The re-dedication ceremony took place, as stated, on Monday week. The Rector having offered up prayer, a hymn was sung, and afterwards the Doxology. The Rector then called upon Mr. G.M. Kite, as parish churchwarden, to read a statement of the work accomplished, the general details of which have already been given. Mr. Kite spoke in terms of warm appreciation of the Rector’s assistance in the work. He (Mr. Kite) was quite sure everyone would be satisfied with the result of the recasting and rehanging, and he ventured to say that there was now no better ring of bells in the county than the parish church bells of Cheltenham, while he was sure there were no better or more practised ringers for many miles around then the ringers who rang those bells. Canon Bell, who was warmly received, thanked Mr. Kite for the kind reference made to himself in connexion with the work they had so well accomplished. There was only one thing he wished, and that was that all old bells might be recast like the bells of their parish church, so that the little discomforts of old age might be obliterated. In conclusion, the Rector congratulated all concerned on the successful completion of their labours. Mr. Gwinnett then proposed that the thanks of the meeting assembled in that peculiar manner in the belfry of the old parish church be given to the Rector of Cheltenham for his successful exertions in the work, the completion of which they were that day assembled to commemorate. The Rev. M.A. Smelt seconded the proposition, which, on being put to the meeting, was carried by acclamation.

The floor of the belfry was now ‘cleared for action’, and the ringers, in the presence of the company, gave a Stedman’s touch of 108 changes. [snip] Mr. G.H. Phillott proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Belcher for the work he had done in connexion with the recasting and rehanging of the bells, and he added that he should like it to be known that the work of repainting the belfry had been carried out by the ringers themselves. Later in the afternoon a combined company of ringers from Gloucester, Malvern, Oxford, Cheltenham, and Monmouth, under the leadership of H. Karn (Cheltenham) gave a touch of Grandsire Triples, which was followed at intervals during the afternoon by other ‘touches.’

On Tuesday a mixed band of ringers, in order to commemorate the re-opening of the bells, rang a true peal of Stedman’s Caters, containing 5079 changes in 3½ hours. [snip]
Church Bells.

Jan. 1884

One for the locals! Some repairs to the parish church bells had just been completed, and he thought that they would find that all the bells, except the tenor, which did not go quite so well as he would wish, were now as they ought to be. The belfry, also, was in good order.

Sept. 19, 1885

Extract from “Excursion to Gloucestershire”. In the morning, as soon as breakfast was over, Mr. Pates of the Cheltenham Society, was in waiting, and the party were soon on their way to Charlton Kings, where an attempt was made for a 720 of Grandsire Minor, but owing to the bad go of the bells this had to be abandoned, and some touches only were rung.
Bell News. [Obviously now a taunt to the local ringers after May 24 1883. Poor excuse for failure!]

May 28, 1887

Ten members of this Association intend to attempt a long peal of 12,000 of Stedman Caters, at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Cheltenham, on Whit-Monday, May 30th. Time of starting about 10.30 a.m. The peal is the composition of Mr H. Johnson, of Birmingham.
Bell News.

June 4 1887

…the long peal of Stedman Caters, consisting of 12,34 changes, was duly started for at the parish church on Whit-Monday, May 30th and all went well for upwards of seventy-eight courses, when an unfortunate ‘trip in the slow’ brought it to an untimely end in 5 hrs. 12 mins., some 8500 changes having been rung.
Bell News.

Dec. 17, 1887

A band composed of members of this Association will again make an attempt to ring the long peal of Stedman Caters (12,345 changes), at the Parish Church, Cheltenham, on Boxing Day, December 26th, 1887. The peal composition of Mr. Henry Johnson. Cheltenham, F.E.Ward, Master.
Bell News.

Dec. 31, 1887

The Attempted Long Peal at Cheltenham. The Attempted long peal of Stedman Caters was unfortunately not accomplished here yesterday. It collapsed after about 5500 changes had been rung, in 3 hrs. and 21 mins.
Bell News.

May 26, 1888

The Record Peal of Stedman Caters at Cheltenham

It may not be without interest to the exercise to know the first attempt to beat the record in Stedman was made at Cheltenham on Whit-Monday in last year, with a peal of 12,345 changes. This unfortunately came to grief after some five-and-a-quarter hours’ ringing, 8500 changes having been done. The next essay was on Boxing Day, and on that occasion some 5000 or 6000 only was rung. Since that date the Oxford Guild succeeded in ringing a peal of 12,041, on March 5th in this year, generously keeping the number below the Cheltenham peal to allow of the latter being rung to supersede theirs. It was, however, decided to extend this peal into another thousand, and Mr. Henry Johnson kindly composed one of 13,054, which, as will be seen in the proper place, was rung on Monday last, at Cheltenham, at the first attempt, it being also the first peal of Caters the conductor has called. The striking throughout was good, and was listened to (besides those mentioned) by many brother ringers from the Midlands.
Bell News p.121.

June 30, 1888

The Long Peal at Cheltenham

On Tuesday the 21st inst. the board recording the 13,054 of Stedman Caters was duly opened in the belfry of St. Mary’s Parish Church. The proceedings were opened by a touch of 1,151 of Grandsire Caters … At its conclusion, Mr. Belcher, the leader of the local band, in a few appropriate words set forth the object for which they had met and finished by removing the covering which had till then hid the board from sight amidst a jubilant outburst of enthusiasm. The master of the association (Mr. F.E. Ward) briefly acknowledged the great honor it was to the society to be able to record so memorable a performance in such a suitable way, and concluded by calling for three hearty cheers for the conductor (Mr. W.T. Pates), who had so ably led them through the peal. This was responded to in a truly English manner, and Mr. Pates having replied, the proceeding terminated.

The board, which is some 4-ft in length, by 2½-ft in breadth, is surmounted by the arms of the diocese in colors, and the title of the association, and contains the simple record of the performance, with the names of these who acted as referees, in gilt on a black ground; it has a handsome raised frame of gilt, relieved by red lines and black edges, and altogether presents an imposing appearance. A photograph of the board has been taken, and cabinet copies (if required) may be obtained of the master, (Mr. F.E. Ward, 438 High Street, Cheltenham), at a charge of ls. each.
Bell News p.185.

Apr. 22, 1889

A peal of 15,227 Grandsire Caters in 9h43 was rung, superseding the previous records in any methods on ten bells.

Jan. 3, 1891

The “Long Peal Attempt” at Cheltenham

Those members of the Gloucester and Bristol Association who attempted a long peal of Treble Ten last Saturday at St. Mary’s, Cheltenham, were, we are sorry to say, not successful. They however rang a true peal of 5120 changes in the same method, and in the evening eight of the company proceeded to Prestbury, a popular village just outside Cheltenham, and there rang an excellent peal of Treble Bob Major. Both these performances will be found recorded in their proper place.

The following day, being Holy Innocents Day, the bells were muffled, and some good Stedman Caters were rung at St. Mary’s, Cheltenham. A well-struck quarter-peal od Stedman Triples was also rung at Prestbury with the bells muffled.
Bells News.

May 8, 1892

Cheltenham & District Guild of Change Ringers founded.

Mar. 23, 1901

Cheltenham Ringers and Edward VII’s Accession

On behalf of the ringers of St. Mary’s parish church, Cheltenham, the Master (Mr. W.T. Pates), forwarded last month an address to the King, most respectfully offering to His Majesty “our deep sympathy in the overwhelming sorrow that has befallen your Majesty and the other members of the Royal Family, and the incalculable loss sustained by the whole Nation and Empire in the death of our late beloved Sovereign Lady Queen and Empress Victoria, and adding it has given us the greatest pleasure in the past to ring joyful peals on St. Mary’s parish church bells for our dearly loved Queen, but now it is our sorrowful duty to perform our last tribute to Her beloved memory. We also humbly beg leave to offer to your Majesty our solemn and earnest congratulations on your accession to the throne.” Mr. Pates has now received the following reply from the Home Secretary:

“Home Office, Whitehall, 4th March, 1901. Sir, – I am commanded by the King to convey to you hereby His Majesty’s thanks for the loyal and dutiful message of the church bell ringers of St. Mary’s parish church, Cheltenham, expressing sympathy on the occasion of the lamented death of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, and congratulation on His Majesty’s accession to the throne. I am Sir, your obedient servant, Chas. T. Ritchie.”
Bell News.

Apr. 10, 1914.

Bells of Famous Churches


The other day we recorded the first peal on the twelve bells of Cheltenham Parish Church – a peal of Grandsire Cinques. Such a performance is of more than passing interest, and serves to recall some noteworthy achievements in this tower. Originally a peal of four or five bells there were recast by Rudhall, of Gloucester, into a peal of eight, the tenor being 22 cwt. 2 qrs. 16 lb. in E flat. In 1826 and onwards various peals of Grandsire (including Holt’s Original on November 5th, 1828) and Treble Bob were rung by the local company, at whose sole expense the bells were augmented to ten in the year 1833, and rehung by James Forty, of Cheltenham. On September 23rd of that year 6000 of Treble Ten was rung, the peal being conducted by Elijah Roberts, of Birmingham of peal-tapping fame, one other Birmingham man, named Hopkins, being in the peal, the rest, apparently, being local men.

Progress in the Art fluctuated in the succeeding years; but about 1873 Stedman Triples was practiced and a peal in this method was rung about 1874 by the local band, conducted by J. Belcher. In 1876 they rang a 5079 Stedman Caters, but the composition turned out to be false. In 1883 two of the bells were recast and the ring rehung, and on the opening day the Rev. F.E. Robinson conducted a true peal of 5079 Stedman Caters upon them. A few years later two famous peals were rung on the bells, viz., 13,054 Stedman Caters in 8 hrs. 16 mins., on May 21st, 1888; and 15,227 Grandsire Caters in 9 hrs. 43 mins., on April 22nd, 1889. Both peals were composed by Henry Johnson, of Birmingham, and conducted by W.T. Pates, who, at that time, had had practically no practice in calling Stedman Caters, and none whatever in Grandsire ‘Caters. Both were excellent peals.

It was in 1912 that the bells were augmented to twelve, by the gift of Alderman and Mrs. Winterbotham of Cheltenham, the two trebles being added and the rest tuned, rehung in an iron frame, and quarter-turned by Messrs, Mears and Stainbank. It is most gratifying to see that the band at this tower is maintaining the traditions of the past, and we hope that before long further performances of Cinques and Maximus may be recorded on these bells – the lightest twelve hung in a church tower.
The Ringing World.

July 21, 1916

The Parish Church, Cheltenham.

By the gale of December 16th, 1910, the apex of the spire was damaged, and in 1911 the upper part, some 14 ft. in height, was rebuilt, a previously discarded old weathercock being refixed on a shortened vane. The whole steeple was repaired, internal stages renewed, and the walls of the belfry strengthened. The ten bells were re-hung, the old 6th bell being re-cast, and the peal augmented to twelve by the addition of two bells, the latter the gift of Alderman J.B. and Mrs. Winterbotham. The work was completed and dedicated by the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of the Diocese on February 25th, 1912, the total cost amounting to £1,243 6s. 8d.

On Thursday, March 19th, 1914, the first peal was rung on the twelve bells by the local company in 3 Hours and 38 minutes, 5016 changes:…[band details followed]
The Ringing World.

July 28, 1916

Occasional Notes by ‘Bob Major’

The opening of the peal board at Cheltenham the other day recalls one of the finest performances in peal ringing that was ever accomplished. Dear old Charles Hattersley, who took part in that performance, was wonderfully proud of it, and if he said ringing was good, you may depend upon it that it was good. Evidently the men who took part in the peal of 15,227 knew the method, for C.H.H. has told us that for more than five hours on end not a word of correction was spoken. The 120 course-ends of Stedman that were rung that day must have been worth listening to….
The Ringing World

Dec. 5th, 1919

Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association

New Branch Formed at Cheltenham

The Gloucester and Bristol Association in its early days was well supported by the ringers of the Cheltenham area of the Association. In the first 100 peals recorded by the Association there is 12,000 of Grandsire Caters and 15,000 of Stedman Caters rung at St. Mary’s Church, Cheltenham, and both peals were conducted by Mr. W.T. Pates. For some years past this portion of the Association has been inactive, and only independent Guild peals have been rung. The officers of the Association felt that something should be done to revive interest in this area, and a special meeting was held on Thursday, November 27th, to decide what could be done. About 40 ringers attended, and 28 new members were elected.

It was decided to decentralise the Gloucester branch, and form a separate branch at Cheltenham. Mr. Townsend, of Leckhampton, was elected hon. secretary; Mr. G.H. Phillott chairman of the branch; and Mr. Ballinger, representative on the committee of management. Mr. Walter Yeend was elected vice-chairman. It was decided to hold the first meeting at Charlton Kings, possibly on December 23rd, 1919.

A vote of thanks was heartily given to Mr. W.T. Pates, and the officers of the Association are very much indebted to him for his kindness, and they feel quite confident that although he is unable (through business) to take any active part as an officer, his experience will be given to the new branch as a member, and that is worth a great deal.
The Ringing World.

May 9, 1941

Handbell Ringing at Cheltenham

On Sunday, April 27th, for the first time handbells were used for the morning service at the Parish Church, Cheltenham. Two short touches of Grandsire Triples were rung by Messrs. Rowland Fenn, Frank Shorter and Wilfrid Williams, of London, and Charles Martin of Cheltenham, and, as might be expected by such experts, the striking was exceptionally good. The innovation was much appreciated by the congregation.

Handbell practices will be held throughout the coming summer at the Parish Church Room near the Fire Station, St. James’ Square, on Thursday evenings from 7 o’clock. The average attendance at these meetings is about ten, and any visitors, especially ringers in H.M. Forces, will be made welcome.
The Ringing World.

Feb. 1982

Parish Bells Restored

Sunday morning churchgoers at the Parish Church last autumn will have noticed an unusual silence for several weeks when they arrived, with no bells ringing to welcome them. With the constant news these days of strikes and go-slows, they may have been forgiven for thinking that the ringers were taking industrial action (or rather inaction). The truth was altogether happier.

The Parish is one of the very few churches in the country with a ring of twelve bells. Of these the two youngest date from 1911, but most of the others were cast in the early years of the previous century. Recently, after something like 150 years of ringing on Sundays, for weddings and such occasions as the recent royal wedding, for practices and during visits by ringers from all parts of the country, their clappers have been showing increasing signs of that very modern-sounding complaint, metal fatigue. Several have snapped and had to be repaired.

As a result the Churchwardens comissioned a detailed examination of the bells and their fittings about a year ago. The PCC in turn accepted a recommendation for a programme of work entailing cleaning out the tower and spire, repainting the bells’ metal framework, and installing new clappers.

During the spring the ringers removed about 5 tons of pigeons’ refuse from the spire, and then the frame was completely repainted. The work of installing the clappers was entrusted to Messrs. Whites, of Appleton in Berkshire, whose association with the bells reaches back a hundred years.

In September the old clappers were removed. New ones were made to measure using modern materials (although special problems meant that one had to be made in a blacksmith’s forge exactly as its predecessor had been in 1823) and duly installed.

The restored bells rang to welcome churchgoers for the first time on November Ist, following six weeks’ silence. On December 24th a ‘quarter peal’ of 1,277 changes of Grandsire Caters was rung before the combined service of Holy Communion, and on January 2nd 1,346 changes of Cambridge Surprise Maximus were rung before the 11 o’clock service as a last tribute to Miss Choate, whose funeral had taken place earlier in the week.

The bells are now once more in fine condition, and ready for a further 150 years’ service.

Cyril Wratten
Parish Magazine

13 Sep. 1997

Muffled bells in tribute

The bells of Cheltenham Parish Church were rung half-muffled as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Last Saturday, the day of the Princess’ funeral service at Westminster Abbey, the captain of the ringers Mrs Margery Wratten said a short prayer. Then a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters, containing 1,259 changes, was rung. [QP details omitted]

On Sunday, before the 9.30am morning service at the Parish Church, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques containing 1,254 changes was rung by a band of ringers, most of them from the parish church. [QP details omitted]

The bells were also rung between 2pm and 3pm on Sunday afternoon. The civic memorial service followed in nearby St Matthew’s church.
Gloucester Echo

11-16 Nov. 2001

Tenor re-hung with new bearings

On 11 November, White’s of Appleton came to inspect and advise on the bearings of the tenor bell. Having lifted the bell out of the frame and rested it on the frame, the bearings could be tested. It was found that one bearing was failing and both should be replaced. On 16 November, White’s returned with new bearings and the tenor was replaced in the pit ready for ringing again. With thanks to those local ringers who also gave up their time to help White’s with the work, to the Friends and the G&B for financial support.