The eight bells that hang in St Bartholomew's belfry have done so for over 100 years and many different people from all over the country have rung them. Here is a detailed account of the history of the bells and ringing at Colne spanning nearly 500 years, from the 1500s to the present day.
 

According to the earliest known records bells have hung in the tower of St Bartholomew's since at least 1550. It is known that in 1764 all six bells were recast at York (by either Seller or Dalton) and rehung in a new frame for six by Henry Harrison of Barrow-on-Humber, Lincolnshire (brother John of 'Longitude' fame). These bells must not have been up to the required standard however, as a mere fifty years elapsed before they were in need of attention once more.

The funding required to purchase a new ring of bells had to come not just from St Bartholomew's but the other smaller churches in the surrounding areas such as Marsden, Barrowford and Foulridge. As the bells would obviously only be installed in St Bartholomew's church, these other sections of the parish were understandably reluctant to pay 250 for the set of eight bells asked for by the ringers at the time.

Though permission for a replacement set of only six bells was granted, nothing was mentioned about their required weight. Hence an order was placed to Mears & Stainbank Bell Foundry, Whitechapel for the weight of eight bells to be used to cast the new six. This foresight meant that two lighter bells could be added at a later date to make a complete octave, and also that the deeper tones of the heavier bells carried further.

The six new bells were hung in 1814 after being shipped up the North Sea to Hull, then ferried via rivers and canals to Foulridge before being brought to Colne by horse and cart. The first major event that these bells were rung for was the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. The tenor from the old set of bells was melted down and re-cast to make a number of hand bells, which were given to the ringers of that time.

In 1900 a local manufacturer by the name of Thomas Hyde donated the money needed to buy two more lighter bells - again from Mears of Whitechapel - to finally complete the long sought after set of eight. At this time the other six bells were also re-hung. These eight bells, six dating from 1814 and the two trebles from 1900, are still hanging in St Bartholomew's tower today and are rung on a regular basis.

 

Not a great deal is known about the ringing history of Colne before the late 1800s. However, around the turn of last century, St Bartholomew's had a dedicated band of ringers. The photo (right) shows some of the ringers of Colne in the 1880s. The ringers are stood outside the church at the foot of the tower, not an area naturally associated with ringing! In fact the ropes had been removed from their bells and dangled from the tower roof to attain this photograph. The sallies looked a bit worse for wear back then, and it can be seen that the ropes had Yorkshire tail ends, unlike today. The people in the picture are (from left to right): Robert Foulds (treble), William Mallinson, Herbert Frankland, Roger Binns, Abraham Lane, and William Heaton (tenor).

click for larger image Ringers at Colne in
the 1880s

1820s Competition at Colne
The following brief account of a striking competition held at St Bartholomew's in the 1820s was kindly sent to us by Karl Grave of Bingley.

In the early part of the [19th] century there was an old clique of enthusiastic bell-ringers; amongst them Hezekiah Briggs (the sexton), Thomas Green, Isaac Rhodes (the old carrier), and Henry Dickinson. The latter dies Feb. 6th, 1883, in his 91st year, and was well known for his wise saws, dry humour, and wonderful memory of past events. He used to tell how on one occasion, when the Bingley ringers were returning over Reedshaw Moss from a ringing contest at Colne, at which the Bingley men were victorious, Isaac Rhodes threw up his hat, shouting "Yorkshire for ivver!" A strong breeze carried the hat a considerable distance, and it was not seen to come down; but it was said that Green, the balloonist, discovered it while making an ascent from Halifax a few weeks afterwards! - excerpt from "Bingley & District", Speight (1904)

This is the earliest printed evidence that ringing was popular at Colne 180 years ago.

 

The ringers of the early 1900s, some of whom had been at St Bartholomew's for many years, rang quite a number of peals during the early part of the 20th century. In addition, around 1902 St Philip's, Nelson was built - currently the nearest tower to Colne. At this time a few of the ringers from St Bartholomew's helped teach an aspiring new band at St Philip's until they had learnt the Art.

This photograph (top right) shows the former ringers of Colne in their heyday some time around 1904-09. Unfortunately, names cannot be put to all of their faces though many are known (back row, from left to right): Roger Binns, Edward Mallinson, Robert Foulds jnr, Harry Foulds, John Pickles Foulds; (front row, from left to right): unknown, William Heaton (aged 72), Rev S. P. Duval DD OBE, William Mallinson, unknown (though possibly William Harrison).

Regrettably, the First World War took its toll on the ringers of Colne and the Blackburn Branch at large. A commemorative notice (right), a copy taken from the original marble plaque still to be found in Blackburn Cathedral, hangs in the ringing room at St Bartholomew's in recognition of their valour.

On a lighter note, it was common practice at Colne in the early part of the century to impose a fine on ringers who turned up late for practices and service ringing, or didn't even show up at all! Ringers were actually paid back then too though, so there were benefits to be had. The docking rates were apparently one penny if late and sixpence if absent!

click for larger image St Bartholomew's
band around 1904
click for larger image Commemorative
WWI notice
 

The ringing achievements of the years around the turn of the 20th century would have been less impressive but for the efforts and contributions of this family. Robert Foulds rang at St Bartholomew's for many years - beginning in the last quarter of the 19th century - and was leader of the ringers for much of that time. He had had five sons before sadly passing away, at which time he was one of the oldest and longest serving change ringers in Lancashire. All of Robert's five sons were themselves regular and dedicated ringers at the Parish Church.

click for larger image The Foulds family at
their Colne home
John Pickles Foulds
Eldest of the five sons. He himself had been a ringer for 32 years and for 20 years of this period was leader. He rang as many as 28 peals - an unusual feat at that time. He died in Colne on 14 March 1934, aged 50.

Harry Foulds
Captured in Germany during the Great War, thoroughly debilitated and never fully recovered. He died during a Morning Service in the Parish Church in 1923, aged 37.

Robert Foulds jnr
Killed in the Great War (at Arras) on 10 April 1917, aged 30.

James Ellis Foulds
Born in 1891 and passed away in 1970.

Tom Foulds
Youngest of the brothers, was in the Royal Navy during the Great War. Died in 1936.
Other members of the Foulds family remained in close contact with the local churches in various ways. Another Robert Foulds (son of John Pickles Foulds) was a warden, organist and treasurer at St John's, Great Marsden, Nelson, for many years. Many thanks to Kathleen Foulds - wife of the late Robert Foulds just mentioned - for the interesting information on the Foulds family. Elsie Parrington (nee Foulds), daughter of the late James Ellis Foulds, kindly provided us with a further selection of photographs of the Foulds family of ringers (click image on right).
click for more info More photos of the
Foulds family
 

For some reason, during the middle part of the 20th century there was a decline in ringing at Colne. Only a handful of ringers resided in the town and the bells as a whole remained largely silent for many months at a time. Ringers from other parts of the Branch had to be called in to ring for weddings and important occasions. This situation was remedied somewhat with the help of a band of seven youngsters aged between 12 and 14.

A photograph (right) published in the Colne Times on 1 January 1968, shows Pat Cooper, Joanne Shutt, Kathleen Shutt, Wendy Cooper and Susan Leedam. These girls, together with John Scrivener and Brian Hooper, began practising the art of campanology under the watchful eyes of Bill Heaton and Frank Heap during 1967. They rang in the New Year in 1968 and for a time became the next generation of bellringers at St Bartholomew's.

click for larger image Colne's young
ringers in the '60s
(photo courtesy of
the Colne Times)
 

The latest revival of Colne's bells has been the most successful for many years. In 1995 Rev Peter Mott, then vicar of the Parish Church, asked members of the youth club if they would like to learn to ring church bells. A few of the attendees expressed an interest - namely Philip Mott, Kevin Pickup and Maria Dyson - and went on to begin their training in the Exercise at St Philip's, Nelson. (At the time Colne's bells were not in good shape and there was a general lack of local ringers.) Once these three new learners had grasped the basics they decided to revitalise St Bartholomew's tower, carrying out much work and improvements. Several other young members joined over the next few years and, with the help and support of ringers from other nearby towers, have gone on to become the latest generation of dedicated and enthusiastic ringers at Colne.

 

Some of the highlights of the current band's achievements include being a part of the RING in 2000 campaign, helping to ring the first full peal at St Bartholomew's for nearly 19 years, and finishing second to Blackburn Cathedral in the 2001 Blackburn Branch striking competition. To date three Colne ringers have rung at least one peal and a further four have rung quarter peals. Five members of our band are competent Surprise Minor ringers, with four making significant inroads with Surprise Major. To cap it all, we currently have four Lancashire Association Proficiency Certificates in the ringing chamber!

click for larger image Our certificates of
proficiency
 
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