The Former Parish & Collegiate Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Ashford

(Now St Mary's Arts Centre) 

ashfordch.jpg                                Details of the Bells 

Treble 4-2-12 G 1970 Whitechapel
2 4-3-26 F 1965 Mears & Stainbank
3 5-0-17 E 1762 Lester & Pack
4 6-1-0 D 1762 Lester & Pack
5 6-0-0 C 1620 Joseph Hatch
6 7-2-2 B 1651 William Hatch
7 9-1-17 A 1633 Joseph Hatch
8 12-1-14 G 1898 John Taylor & Co.
9 14-3-9 F 1620 Joseph Hatch
Tenor 21-2-22 E flat 1796 Thomas Mears I
Semitone 6-2-12 32" 1885 Gillet, Bland & Co.

Sound Clips:

Ringing Times

Practice: Occasional Tuesdays 7:30pm 
Sunday: Occasionally 9:20 - 10:00am (Quarter Peals most Sunday Evenings; except 2nd)

Tower Captain:  Vacant
Secretary: Unknown

Christopher J. Cooper
Keith A. Osborne
Ian A Renyard
Phillip A. Renyard

Tower History

1470 Tower Built.
1552 Records of a large ring of five and one smaller bell.
1620 Treble added and back three recast by Joseph Hatch of Ulcombe.
1633 Third recast by Joseph Hatch of Ulcombe.
1651 Second recast by Joseph Hatch of Ulcombe.
1762 Two trebles added by Lester & Pack to form the ring of eight.
Bells rededicated on Monday 14th March.  During a piece of ringing on the opening day, the clapper came out of the three and was not found until 1965 when the restoration was completed.  The first peal on the 8 bells was rung by the Leeds Youths on Tuesday 15th March - 5184 Oxford T.B. 3 hours & 31 minutes.  The Wye Youths rang a short bit 'but not very well'.

The first local band peal was rung in December 1763 and is shown below along with the other early peals by the local band.

1796 Tenor recast by Thomas Mears.
Other early peals

The grave of Ambrose Reeve in Ashford Church Yard.  He was one of the original Ashford ringers following the augmentation to 8 (see peal boards above).
1816 A new Carillon was installed and set going on Tuesday 4th June  For many years, John Laker was Tower Captain at Ashford  He lived at Hempstead Terrace pictured below - demolished to make way for the hated ring-road.


1878 Reports of a crack in the sixth.  
Some of the Peals rung by the 19th Century band. The frame is actually a fire surround and mantelpiece from the Blue Line Lane Hotel which was in Blue Line Lane.  The hotel was demolished long ago.

John Laker, who lived at Hempsted Terrace (demolished to make way for the ring-road and the site now covered with the new County Square) was Captain for many decades.  Practices have been held on Tuesdays since at least 1860, and probably even earlier.
1885 The old clock and carillon (being worn out, so it was said) were swept away, and were replaced by the current clock and carillon.  The old clock had a very large and quaint wooden dial to the South only, whereas the new clock had faces to North and South, and the dials as can be seen today are that much smaller than the old wooden dial.   In order that the National Anthem be correctly and loyally played on the carillon, two small bells (one inscribed J.P.A. - Canon Alcock's initials) were added to the ringing octave  by Gillett & Co.  (these bells were only for the use of the carillon) and the clock and carrillon were set going by the Vicar, Canon John Price Alcock, on Ascension Day 14th May.
1898 Canons removed, sixth recast and all rehung by John Taylor of Loughborough.
1899 Charles Walter Everett learnt to ring at Ashford.  In 1959 a board was erected on the wall of Ashford tower (which is still there) recording his 60 years as a ringer at that tower.  For much of that time he was the Tower Captain.  He was also Master of the Romney Marsh & District Guild for very many years, and Percy Page (another Ashford ringer) was for many years Secretary of the RM & DG.
First peal by an entirely local band (all resident in Ashford).  This peal board has hung on the tower wall ever since.

On February 29th 1908 in 3 hours, 5040 Grandsire Triples (Holts 10-part).

      T. Wenham(2)      A.C. Kay(3)      F.G. Beeken(4)      A. Webb (Tenor)      G. Lindridge(5)      T. Tabrett (6)      A.J. Dyson (7)
Charles Howland (CW)      Canon P.F. Tindall (Vicar)      C.W. Everett (Treble)      Ernest E. Thomas (CW)

1924 Front seven rehung by Gillett & Johnston.
1925 Tenor rehung by Gillet & Johnston.
Picture of the local band following a peal attempt; details are below the picture.  C.W. Everett Esq. was Captain.

On May 11th 1936 in 3 hours and 4 minutes, 5040 Stedman Triples (Thurstans 4-part)

Daniel Godden (Tenor)     Frank Conley (4)    Thomas Tabrett (2)    Charles Crothall (Sacristan & Verger)     George Swaffer (5)     John Parsons (3)      Percy Page (6)
Charles Walter Everett (7-Cond.)       Rev.R.S.B. Sinclair (Vicar)       Mrs C.W. Everett (Treble)
Charles Walter Everett, Captain of Ashford.  Jan 1950.
1965 Small carillon bell recast.  Ring of eight unfortunately tuned (although the tuning seems to have been successful) and rehung in a new metal ten-bell frame by Mears & Stainbank.
1970 Treble cast from redundant school bells by Whitechapel.  Rev. D.L. Cawley has written an excellent article about this.  Small carillon bell hung for full circle ringing to form the present ring of ten.  N.B. Mr F.G. Huckstepp and others with the support of the Vicar (Canon Maurice Sharp) collected small chapel bells from all over the county in order to obtain enough metal to cast the treble (they were all stored in his living room!)
2000 M. Chittenden-Pile took the position of Master of the tower and began to put the tower into traditional order.
Local band January 2002 following tower AGM.  Last AGM at which the Vicar presided.

C.J. Cooper  Mrs I.B. Smith  I.C. Moore  I.A. Renyard  M. Chittenden Pile (Capt.)  Rev. Canon J.W. Everett (Vicar)  Mr S. Milburn (Treas.)  Miss S.E.G. Fletcher  P.A. Renyard  Miss M.M. Jones [Senior member] (Sec.)
2000 - 2005 An excellent local band (with assistance of the Leeds Youths and RM & DG) ensured the bells were rung well twice on Sundays, with Quarter Peals in various methods performed on Sunday Evening for Evensong.
Sept 2002: Canon J.W. Everett retired,  having been the last Vicar with the Freehold and Cure of Souls in the Parish. 
2003 2nd March: A Quarter Peal of 1280 Oxford Treble-Bob Major was rung prior to Choral Evensong to commemorate the 240th Anniversary of the first peal (same method) on the 8 bells which was rung on Tuesday March 15th 1763 by the Leeds Youths.  Members of the Ancient Society of Esquire Leeds Youths took part in this Quarter Peal.
highworthcentring.jpg practnight.jpg
     Band who rang a Quarter Peal of Grandsire Triples (taken from 'The Original') for the        A typical scene on a practice night in the halcyon days of Ashford ringing.
         centenary service of the Highworth Girls Grammar School, Fri 2nd April 2004.
       S.J.O Head, M.P. Moreton, Mrs G.G. Pearson, Miss E.K. Davey, P.A. Renyard
      P.G. Parrott, C.J. Cooper (Conductor), Rev L.J. Hammond (formerly Curate here)
Mr C. J. Cooper was excluded from the tower for objecting to the removal of the pews and for his attitude toward those who exhibit a general disregard for the inherited tradition of the building, and for circulating letters and other documents campaigining against the destruction of furnishings, liturgy and doctrine.
Ashford Ringers Christmas Dinner 2005
2009 Finally after three and a half years of an unofficial exclusion from the tower, Mr C.J. Cooper was reinstated, and began to try and assist the new Captain rebuild a large band worthy of being entrusted with the weighty task of ringing the bells in this important famous and noble Ex-Collegiate Parish Church.
2010 Following a long and unpleasant battle the church was closed from October 2010 until June 2011.  It reopened (effectively) as an Arts Centre with only the Chancel still recognisable as a church interior.  The church authorities had deliberately and maliciously either sold or cut up all the solid oak pews in the Nave.  Only £2000 was raised from the sale of the pews; a disgraceful outcome.
2012 By God's good grace a small quantity of the old pews were recovered just before they were entirely destroyed.  They are in secure storage awaiting restoration and subsequent application for Faculty to reinstate a central block of pews in the Nave.