10 bells from the foundry John Taylor & Co of Loughborough in England arrived in Vernet les Bains, Pyrénées-Orientales this week, and they will be ringing out during Easter weekend.
The bells will be installed in the church of Saint Georges and will become the first set of bells capable of English change ringing in France. The church, which was built in the early years of the 20th century by the English, was funded with contributions from the famous author Rudyard Kipling and the daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Beatrice among others.
The church has a tower but no bells were ever installed. Several years ago a well-known English bell ringer, Jeff Ladd, had the idea of fundraising to install a set of bells. With the help and cooperation of the commune of Vernet les Bains and the Fondation du Patrimoine, a project was launched to manufacture the bells and bring them over to France.
The particularity of English bell ringing is that the bells are controlled with ropes pulled by ringers and the ringers can change the order of the bells at each pull of the rope because the bells are mounted on a wheel. The very harmonious sound that this produces can be heard in English villages every weekend. On feast days and Sundays it will now be heard for the first time in France in Vernet les Bains.
The bells will be on display in the church this week before being installed in the tower.
The bells will be heard for the first time over the Easter weekend when more than 20 ringers will arrive from England. Jeff Ladd and Michael Strutt are the only two local ringers and therefore lessons will be given to those wishing to learn this interesting activity. In time, it is hoped that there will be a band of local French practitioners of this art.
It is particularly appropriate that these English bells should be installed in Vernet les Bains which has long had a strong English connection. The village has the only monument to the Franco-British Entente Cordiale and it is hoped that this new project will continue this fine tradition.
The ten bells are:
CATHERINE, given by her family and friends in memory of Catherine Ladd
LADY CONSTANCE, given by her parents in memory of Catherine Ladd
TREVELYAN, given by Phil & Gwen Rogers in memory of Catherine Ladd
ABBEY, given by Abbey Runners, running and ringing friends in memory of Catherine Ladd
HARRY, given by his wife and family in memory of Harry Winter
DUNSTAN, given by Peter and Angela Newing
ROGER, given by his wife and daughter, ringing friends and Leeds University Society in memory of Roger Green
DAVID, given by their son in memory of his parents, Lancelot and Elizabeth Barrington
BRANDON, given by Durham University Society in memory of Catherine Ladd
JEFF (5-0-15 in C), given by her husband in memory of Catherine Ladd
If you would like to contribute to the fund for the installation of these bells in Vernet les Bains you can do so via the “Just Giving” website.
If you would like to be part of a team of new bell ringers who will be trained after Easter please send your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications from french school or college teachers are particularly welcome as the bells are designed to be rung by persons young and old.
Please contact Michael Strutt:
Telephone 04 68 96 78 20
email: email@example.com for further information and for access to the church.