Ringing World Vol 29, Iss 1204, page 250-251

31st March 1934



  Within the memory of many still living, "Randmoor," as it used to be called — ‘ the edge of the moor,’ as its name signifies — was a picturesque piece of country on the outskirts of the growing town of Sheffield. A racecourse along what is now Fulwood Road attracted the grinders and cutlers of Sheffield; and the grandstand, of which 'Stand House' marks the site, was filled with the local patrons of sport, while through the woods and along the banks of Porter Brook  and Oak Brook the children loved to wander in spring and summer.

  With the growing prosperity of the cutlery town, many mansions sprang up in the district, and it was John Newton Mappin, of Birchlands, who conceived the idea of building in their midst the Church of St. John-the-Evangelist. The noble church, with its lofty tower and steeple, was completed in 1879 by his munificence, and a peal of eight bells was presented by William Smith, of Hallam Head.

Picture: Ranmoor 1934

  Eight years afterwards, in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, the church was burnt down, the walls and the tower alone remaining, and in 1888, twenty months following the disaster, a still more glorious building was reopened for public worship.

  The spire rises to a height of 200ft., and is the highest in Sheffield, and in the tower was housed a ring of eight, with a 15cwt. tenor, that had been in urgent need for many years of rehanging  and improvement in tone.

  On Saturday, March 31st, the old bells, restored and augmented to ten, were rededicated by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield in the presence of a crowded congregation and 100 ringers of the district.

  Ranmoor will always be associated with the late Mr. Sam Thomas, one of the early founders of the Sheffield District Association of Change Ringers and leader of the belfry for many years.

  Sam Thomas was born in 1870 at Wath-on-Dearne and came of an old ringing family. He first learnt to ring at the age of nine, joined the Parish Church (now the Cathedral) company in 1889, rang his first peal with them, and was associated with the Ranmoor band from 1896 until his death on June 24th, 1924.

  Among his many achievements was the first peal of Original Major, which he composed and conducted, and he was known not only in Sheffield but throughout the country for his ability in teaching young learners as much as for his own excelleuce as a ringer and conductor of outstanding ability.

  A fitting tribute has now been paid to his memory in the presentation of the two trebles to create a ring of ten by the Sheffield and District Society.

  At the dedication service the Bishop was assisted by the Very Rev. the Provost of Sheffield (Dr. A. C. E. Jones), the Rev. Canon Bracewell (Rural Dean), the Rev. Canon L. T. G. Smith, and the Rev. H. C. Foster (Vicar of Ranmoor).

  An impressive part of the ceremony was when the Bishop, accompanied by the Vicar and churchwardens, Lieut.-Col. R. O. Wever and other members of the Bells Committee, went to the bell tower, where Mr. Cyril Johnston, representing the bell founders, handed over the bell ropes.

  An innovation was introduced by the erection in the church of loud speakers which were connected to a microphone in the ringing chamber in order that the vast congregation could hear the ceremony of the actual dedication and the handing over of the bells.

  The opening rounds were rung by the local company and special visitors, whilst Messrs. C. Haynes (president), S. F. Palmer (treasurer) and M. E. Wilson (secretary) of the Sheffield and District Society were present in the ringing chamber at the special request of the Vicar.

  In the course of an inspiring address his Lordship asked the question, "Is the ringing of church bells for victory right?"
  ‘I still think,’ he said, ‘that the ringing of church bells for victory is right. If you have entered into such a terrible thing as war with a good conscience and with a desire to do the right, and if God gives you the victory, I think it is right to ring the bells.’

  Dr. Burrows said that it was quite clear from history that the sound of the bells was their original value. He thought that sometimes in England we had lost a good deal in dropping some of our age-old customs which reminded us of the past and served as a link with it.

  There were still great occasions when the bells were sounded. He said marriage bells were one of the best and truest uses of the bells of the church, because they showed to the whole parishioner that marriage was a solemn and sacred thing when performed in the church.

  The Bishop also spoke of the moving effect of the muffled peals of bells sometimes still used at  funerals. The most common use of the bells was to call people to worship.'

  The Bishop described the development of bells as the Church had grown, and how science and music had come in through change ringing and the tuning of bells. He paid tribute to the late Mr. Sam  Thomas, who devoted much of his time to the perfecting of change ringing, which he introduced in the district.

  Immediately after the service, and as the vast congregation was leaving the church, the bells burst forth into their first changes, a well struck touch of Stedman Caters being rung by a specially picked band of ringers, all of whom bad been closely associated with the late Mr. Thomas.

  A large number of people remained outside to listen to the bells, and all were loud in their praises of the magnificent tone of the new peal.

  Tea was served in the Parish Room, at which all the clergy present at the dedication, the churchwardens, Mr. and Mrs. C. Johnston, of Croydon, and some one hundred ringers and friends sat down.

  The Bishop again addressed the gathering, and, in addition to what he had already said from the pulpit, added a few words specially to the ringers for the part they had taken in that day’s proceedings, and thanked them for their help and kindly interest, for, he said, he never lost sight of the valuable work being done by the ringers in his diocese in the service of the Church.

  Mr. S. F. Palmer, on behalf of the Sheffield and District Society, gave a short resume of the work done in connection with the addition of the two new trebles by the society, the members of which had made themselves responsible for the cost, in their desire to erect some tangible memorial to the memory of their late president. He specially thanked the Rev. H. C. Foster, Vicar of Ranmoor, for his great interest and warm-hearted co-operation, without which their desire could never have been accomplished. In congratulating Mr. Johnston on the fine quality of the peal and the excellence of his firm’s work, Mr. Palmer jocularly referred to a previous announcement in the local press of the ‘World’s best bells for Sheffield Church.’ He had sent that bill head to Mr. Johnston, with an addendum of his own, ‘ Mind they are,’ and he hoped that time would prove that they were ‘some of the best.’

  After tea short touches were rung on the bells in various methods until 9 p.m., in order that every ringer present should have an opportunity of testing the new peal.

  The towers represented included Sheffield Cathedral, St. Marie's R.C., Handsworth, Norton, Chesterfield, Bolsover, Rawmarsh, Rotherham, Eastwood, Ecclesfield, Staveley, Bolsterstone, South Anston, Brighton, Worksop and the local Company. The visitors included Mr. F. J. Smallwood (Bolton), Mr. W. Dransfield (Almondbury), and Mr. Thomas, brother of the late Mr. Sam Thomas.

The inscription on each of the two new trebles runs: ' This bell was added to the original peal of eight bells by the Sheffield and District Society of Change Ringers in memory of Sam Thomas in 1934.’

  The former inscriptions have been reproduced on the back eight bells, with the addition of ‘Recast by Gillett and Johnston, Croydon.’

  The ring of ten is in the key of F with a total weight of 73 cwt., the tenor weighing 16 1/4 cwt.

  The space in the belfry is limited, but the whole peal has been hung skilfully on one level in a massive cast-iron frame on steel girders.

  The fittings are of the latest type, and the tenor and trebles have been fitted with the firm’s patent clapper control.

  A special sound-deadening floor has been inserted between the belfry and the ringing room, which is just below, and the fine spire has beon opened up.

  The result of these improvements is well justified by the improvement of the conditions in the ringing room and the general musical effect outside the tower.

  Messrs. Gillett and Johnston were congratulated on all sides for the production of a fine peal with trebles of outstanding quality and a ring that can be handled with the greatest of case.

End of Article


 Back to Historical Articles Index

 Go back to Homepage