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NE Branch held their Quarterly meeting at Bampton on Saturday 5th January and had their first attempts at Short-mat Bowling.  The afternoon began with Ringing at Bampton followed by a service with Rev John Stone officiating and Jennifer Rowlandson as organist.  We were pleased to welcome Wendy Campbell, Guild Master, and Janet Coles, Guild Secretary for the afternoon.  Tea was provided by the Bampton band in the Community Hall.  A short meeting heard notices of forthcoming events and Annual Accounts from the Troyte Ringing Centre.  This year the Troyte Ringing Centre’s income has reached almost £3,000, the bulk of the income coming from Peal fees.  This year the funds were divided between Huntsham PCC, Devon Church Bell Restoration Fund, the NE Branch and the TRC.  The Farm Crisis Network has been chosen as the Charity this year to receive £500 from the TRC.

After the formal structure of the afternoon Pat Hatchett and Ron Ayre gave demonstrations and brief instructions of Short-mat bowling. Branch members then had an opportunity to have a go themselves.  The photo shows the level of competition between opposing teams with Carla Dawes measuring the distance in the hope that her team have won the ‘end’.

Carla Dawes…”I think she won!”



MARCH 2008

It first came to my notice when I was browsing a ringers chat thread on the internet. The posting alerted people to an interesting book, with ringing connections that had appeared on eBay. On investigating I found that it was specific to Huntsham Church and it was the attendance and fine book for the ringing activities at Huntsham. It dates from 1874 and lists the members attending on practice evenings and Sunday service ringing with details of fines imposed for absence and tardiness. It also records the methods rung during practices along with conductors. The name C Troyte occurs quite frequently as a conductor.

My next action was to contact Michael Hatchett, the Huntsham tower correspondent, and make him aware of this valuable piece of Huntsham history and discuss what could be done about restoring it to its rightful place at Huntsham Church. Mike was about to embark on a trip to Australia so he asked me if I would bid for the book on his behalf and gave me a figure to spend. A couple of days later the book was withdrawn from the auction, the reason being given was that there were errors in the listing.

That would appear to have been the end of it. However, the vigilance of the chat list users soon revealed that it had been re-listed along with another item, a manuscript by Charles Troyte, with details and tables for compositions of Kent Treble Bob. The listing suggested that this manuscript was the inspiration for Dorothy L Sayers book The Nine Tailors. I watched both items with interest as the auction progressed and realised that the manuscript was attracting a lot of attention from collectors and probably people who had an interest in Dorothy Sayers. Sadly the manuscript went way beyond the budget.

Using my limited experience of eBay, I put into practice buying tactics that I had learned, and made a successful bid for the attendance book which I purchased within the budget I had been given.

The end result is that the book will be returned home to Huntsham. A tale with a happy ending. Click here to more pictures of the book.

Bob Caton.



During a ringing visit to St Peter’s Tiverton, I commented on a number of small bells mounted high up on the walls of the ringing chamber (Fig 1), roughly aligned with the bell ropes, and was told they were once part of the Seage apparatus. No further information was available, but with the invaluable assistance of numerous ringing contacts and the book on bell fittings by T S Jennings (from the GDR Library) I was introduced to some of the rich heritage of Seage and his apparatus. It turns out that the apparatus was the mechanical equivalent of modern simulators.

1. The little bells in the ringing chamber at Tiverton

2. Sketch of the Seage apparatus

The eponymous Seage silent apparatus was devised by Epaphras Seage, an Exeter printing engineer, and first installed in about 1875 at St. Sidwell’s, Exeter. With the apparatus fitted, ringing and striking could be practised on tied tower bells without disturbing the neighbourhood. Seage was encouraged by his friend, Charles A. W. Troyte of Huntsham, the first President of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers (and President of the St Sidwell’s Society of Ringers), who brought the invention to the attention of the ringing community in a letter reproduced in Church Bells, 22 July 1876, describing the apparatus as Gong or Hand-Bell Connexions with Dumb Tower Bells. Seage and his son George later became Honorary Members of the St Sidwell’s Society, although it is unclear whether either was a ringer. Curiously the Minutes of Meetings of the period mention ‘lashing the bells for gong practice’, but make no reference to Seage by name in this context.

Based on the principle of the shopkeeper's door bell, the Seage apparatus was a trip mechanism activated by the tower bell in its swing (see sketch, Fig 2). A roller at the top of the headstock on the side opposite to the bell struck a ‘U’-shaped rocker arm (Fig 3) as the bell was rising to the balance. A spike at the bottom of the rocker arm operated a cam on the top of a trip lever, depressing the end of the lever (Fig 3), which in turn was attached to a sprung wire and crank. When the lever was depressed the wire was jerked, and the little bell in the ringing chamber was struck (Fig 4). The little bells were normal hand-bell shapes, although in a few installations, Seage supplied hemispherical bells or gongs.

Interest in the device spread quite rapidly, and an advertisement for the Seage Church Bell Dumb Practice Apparatus in Bell News of April 1882 announced that the apparatus had been installed in many churches in England, Scotland and abroad. Initially, Seage and his son kept pace with demand, though later an assistant took over the work. Supplying and fitting a set of apparatus for any bell regardless of size could be done for about £1, excluding the clapper stay and the little bells, which were purchased from regular bell founders for £1 for eight bells. Taylor invited Seage to advertise in his 1881 Catalogue, agreeing to supply the inventor with much of the associated brasswear in addition to the handbells.

Unfortunately, the Seage apparatus was not protected by patent, and copies, improvements and re-designs were made by bell founders and others.

3. The rocker arm at Crawley, Sussex


4. Striking mechanism at Huntsham

Evidence of the originally installed Seage devices can still be found in Devon towers, including Huntsham, Merton and Tiverton, although nothing remains of those at Bampton, Beaford and Marychurch. Further afield, examples are at Crawley, Ryde (IoW) and Glasgow.

Aside from being silent to the neighbourhood, a major intended attraction was the accurate reproduction of the overall dynamics of ringing such that the little bell would be struck at exactly the same moment that the clapper, if untied, would have struck the tower bell. However, Jennings reports that a time delay could occur in some installations if the wire took a circuitous route into the ringing room, for example in small towers with a two-tier bell frame, or in avoiding clock and chiming mechanisms.

Maintenance was essential. Exposed iron wire corroded quickly, and copper wire became strained, inducing mechanical faults. By the end of WW1 Epaphras Seage & Son had ceased trading, the apparatus seems to have fallen out of favour and many sets were removed from their towers. Those which remained and were in working order enjoyed a brief renaissance during WW2, 1939-45, as the practice of silent ringing was allowed to continue.

Installation of the Seage apparatus would almost certainly have been restricted to those towers with a method ringing band. It would have limited attraction to call change bands in Devon and indeed elsewhere because bell raising and lowering could not be simulated. The advertisement in Bell News of 1882 promotes the use of improved clapper stays, which held the clapper centrally in the bell, rather than tying the clapper with rope. These stays may have been used for tied bell practice long after the apparatus itself went out of use, and variants can still be seen in many towers.

The Revd Arthur Du Boulay Hill, a master at Winchester College between 1874 and 1882, later wrote “…I had under my instruction a fairly proficient band of ringers in the school. The College authorities most willingly granted the use of bells (a handy ring of 6, tenor about 12 cwt) under my superintendence. I fitted them up with Seage’s ‘silent practice apparatus’ and Dale’s ‘clapper stays’ and we could fix everything up for silent ringing in three minutes…. and though we never rang them open we accomplished Grandsire and Stedman…some of my pupils went on to become useful members of the Oxford University Change Ringing Society”

Records of the Rev George F Coleridge, a noted Devonian and ringer, refer to his use of Seage’s Dumb practice apparatus fitted to the front 8 in the tower of New College Oxford in 1879. His original objective seems to have been 720s of minor although he also mastered triples and major methods on the device. Certainly the apparatus was in use there through WW2 and was only dismantled in the 1960s.

Sometime in the 1880s, Seage supplied one of his devices to Great St Mary’s in Cambridge. The Cambridge Youths proved a little more adventurous than their Oxford counterparts and in January 1897 rang a peal of 5056 Plain Bob Major, composed by J W Trollope, in 3 hours 13 minutes. A peal board in the ringing chamber records ‘the first on the Seage’s apparatus’; it is assumed this refers to being the first in that tower. The apparatus was removed from Great St Mary’s during the major re-hanging of the bells in 1952.

According to Chris Pickford, “peals were rung on Seage's apparatus, in quite a few places though it might be hard to find out where as reports didn't always say so”.

This proved to be the case, as the only other peal on Seage apparatus to be positively confirmed is that at Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow, where in 1922 a peal of 5040 Kent Treble Bob Minor (with 7, 8 cover) was rung in 3 hours 24 minutes, in honour of the birthday of King George V. The footnote claims it was the first peal of minor in Scotland. A contemporary report from the Ancient Society of College Youths registered it as a peal (by majority vote), but only after assurances from the umpire present during the attempt. In the same report, it seems that the Bath & Wells Association, some years earlier, had condemned such a peal on a ‘silent’ apparatus at Christ Church, Bath.

Communication with the Scottish Association confirms that the device was in regular use at Glasgow until the 1970s, when it was made superfluous by modifications to the louvers reducing the sound of the tower bells to acceptable levels. In its day it was regarded as a valuable teaching asset, though it took a while to set up and needed constant adjustment. The Seage equipment is no longer in use but could be made operational with some maintenance and there are plans to try it out later this year.

The Seage apparatus fitted at Crawley, Sussex, in 1880 was evidently well-used as it had to be refurbished in 1916, by Mears and Stainbank at a cost of £3. By the time the bells were re-hung on ball bearings in 1935 the apparatus was again worn out. In 1982 it was renovated (by a Crawley ringer, coincidentally named Jennings); modifications were made to the striking arrangements, and some components replaced with those from the Seage installation at Cuckfield, West Sussex. A quarter peal of Superlative Surprise was rung on it in 1982 (RW 1982 p.160). Reactions to ringing the Seage apparatus for the Crawley quarter peal were varied, and whilst some enjoyed the experience, others found it somewhat incongruous to pull a bell of several hundredweights and be rewarded with the sound of a small handbell. Correspondence with Wendy Wheeler, who rang in the quarter peal and provided the original sketch for the RW report, confirms that the apparatus was used extensively over the years, but is now retired. Given time, WD40 and patience it could be made functional. Her experience with the Seage apparatus at Crawley is that the modified arrangement ensures the little bells strike at the same time as the ‘big’ bells. However, as she says “it takes very much longer to set up than say the Cummins, or Bagley simulators, but has the advantage that it does not need electricity, so can be used during power cuts”!

Practicing ringing on tower bells without annoying the neighbours remains as much a requirement as in Seage’s time. Nowadays we can ring tied bells and listen to sounds appropriate to their weights by simple adjustments to the simulation software. However, I believe we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ingenuity and inventiveness of Epaphras Seage and his pioneering mechanical simulators, which doubtless contributed immeasurably to the function and acceptability of the family of modern devices. It was disappointing not to discover evidence of a Seage peal or quarter in Devon, but maybe in the future, from tower records somewhere in the County this may be amended.

Apart from those mentioned in the text, I am indebted to locals Richard Bowden, Leslie Boyce, Mike Hatchett, Martin Mansley and Ian Smith and to Philip Earis and Tessa Beadman (Cambridge), John Eisel (CC Librarian), Phil Gay (Keele), Suzanne Foster (Winchester), Terry Williams and Magnus Peterson (Scotland) in the preparation of this article.

Roger King




The media has shown an interest in bellringing training due to Mike Hatchett's article in the Exeter Diocesan Magazine (page 5), and have featured it in BBC Devon's local news programme Spotlight; to see the broadcast click here

BBC NEWS 24 Filming at Bampton

BBC News 24 picked-up on the story and produced this report, click here. Further articles on the BBC website can be seen here and here.

RW Ref 5015/0608



The TRC has been awarded the Founders' Prize for Ringing Centres.

The Worshipful Company of Founders competition was for the ringing centre which made the greatest contribution to the teaching of ringing during the previous year. The competition was administered by the CCCBR Ringing Centres Committee.

The cash prize and a commemorative plaque was presented at the Branch Annual Dinner by Andrew Gillett (Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Founders), Les Boyce received the prize on behalf of the Branch and Guild. Andrew Gillett and Gail Cater (Chair of Central Council Ringing Centre Committee) were guests of honour at the dinner.

The Founders Prize Presentation

The Commemorative Plaque



The North East Branch Annual Dinner was held at the Blackberries Restaurant, Bampton. It was well attended since it was also the venue for a presentation of an award to the Branch's Troyte Ringing Centre, (see Founders Prize).


Branch AGM

The Branch held their Annual Meeting on Saturday 6th October at Cullompton. The afternoon started with ringing the 10 bells of St Andrews before a service conducted by Rev Bob Hooper. We were delighted to be joined by the President, Ringing Master and Secretary of the Devonshire Guild of Ringers for the day.

The Cullompton band provided a splendid tea after which the formal meeting took place. Reports from the Chair, Ringing Masters, Training Officer, Treasurer and Publicity Officer were heard and elections held for committee posts for the coming year. Leslie Boyce was re-elected as Chair and John Kape as Ringing Master.

After the Formal meeting members of the Branch joined in an informal Members' Forum during which discussions included future training in the Branch, social events and the design and purchase of display boards for advertising bellringing and for use in our recruitment campaign. Extended discussion reflected on the recent publicity the Branch has gained after local, national and international publicity on radio and television. The Branch plans to hold open days, coffee mornings and demonstrations to promote interest in bellringing.


Bob Minor Training Day

The Troyte Ringing Centre held the final training day of the year on Saturday 10th November. 4 students and helpers had theory session led by Mike Hatchett with plenty of opportunity to practise what they had learnt. Lunch and refreshments were provided by Pat and at the end of the day all felt that they had made progress.

As well as having 2 branch practise towers, St Peter's, Tiverton, and Bampton, the Monday night practises held at Huntsham have been opened for anyone wishing to make progress in plain hunting and Bob Doubles. It is hoped that these will provide opportunities for students to get follow-up practice after courses.

The photo shows Mike Hatchett, Anne Barrow, and Phillip (from Silverton)

Fred Edwards Shield

The annual competition held on 17th November at Uffculme featured a call changed event known as Queen's changes. Three teams entered the competition this year and the judges were David Trist and Brian Samuels. After the ringing the teams adjourned to the Ostler for the results and refreshments. With helpful comments on how the teams could improve next time the results were as follows:-

St Peter's, Tiverton: 49½ faults
Uffculme:               54¾ faults
Silverton:               113 faults

With St Peter's winning the shield by a narrow margin, Silverton were praised by those taking part for fielding a band with 4 inexperienced ringers. Well done to all who took part and we hope to have a greater number of teams taking part next year.

The St Peter's band and the judges, David Trist and Brian Samuels

Sheila Scofield



The Ringing Round Devon quarterly Newsletter of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers can be found here.

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