We have six bells at St James’ – the largest of which, called the ‘tenor’, is eight hundredweight (or about 400 kg) of bellmetal, an alloy of copper and tin. The five largest bells were cast in 1792 by the well known J.Warner bellfoundry of London The lightest bell, or ‘treble’ was provided in 1885. This was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Both the treble and tenor bells are in a way very special to Finchampstead, bearing the names of past Rectors at this church; the inscription on the treble refers to the Rector’s 80th birthday in 1885, and on the tenor is found the Rector’s name of 1792 – both of whom are named the Rev. E. St John!
(There is a list of Rectors at the rear of the Church.)
The five older bells were cast and tuned as a ‘ring’ of bells – and are now rare as there are only about 20 bells left by the original John Warner. They are among the earliest ‘rings’ bearing his name, whose company survived (albeit in several stages), well into the twentieth century. The bells were completely overhauled by specialists at Whitechapel Foundry in 2005 and rehung by them.
The bells hang in a metal frame built in 1909 by Messrs Webb and Bennett, of Kiddlington, Oxfordshire. Before that there would have been a traditional wooden frame, but not much is known of that now. The present frame rests on three longitudinal beams set into the east and west walls of the tower.
The view from the top of the tower is good, the church being on top of a hill. To the south lies the River Blackwater, a tributary of the Loddon, and on the horizon the forests of north-east Hampshire. To the north is seen the town of Wokingham, with the two parish churches visible; and on the horizon the woods and two small hills in the north of east Berkshire. Nearer can be seen parts of Barkham, and the spire of St James the Less – or at least when there are not too many leaves on the trees! To the east several high buildings of Bracknell can be seen – and also the church of St Michael, Easthampstead; to the west lies Farley Hill and Arborfield (including the Garrison) and to the north-west lies the outskirts of Reading, but the town itself is hidden – down in the lower end of the Kennet valley before it joins the Thames.
The Bellringers are responsible for ringing the bells in the traditional English style of Change Ringing for Sunday services and weddings. Occasionally we ring for other services and national celebrations and, very rarely now, for funerals. Members of our band belong to the Sonning Deanery Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers
We meet on Wednesday evenings for our weekly Practice, where we enjoy learning and perfecting our ringing. Visitors from other Towers are always welcome at our practices and on Sundays and we are always happy to introduce beginners to an activity we all enjoy. There is always something to learn. Some ringers also go to other Towers to join in the ringing practices or help out with weddings or at services if needed. Throughout the year groups of Ringers from other Towers also come and ring at St James’, as part of a Ringing Outing, visiting various churches in the area. Tower Contact is Tricia Amos: [email protected], phone 0118 973 3747.
Listen to the bells of St James’ being rung for the first time following the Conservation Project.