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Letter received from Buckingham Palace

The Parish Council has received the following letter from Buckingham Palace in response to the greeting sent to Her Majesty on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

letter from Palace2




The final meeting of the calendar year on 8 December took in a festive spirit when, in addition to mulled wine and mince pies (courtesy of, respectively, Nick Hopkin and Suzanne Legg) and a seasonal raffle, Lele Wade, one of our long serving members, had kindly agreed to show members how to make floral Christmas decorations using readily available foliage, flowers and fruit.  On arrival we were greeted by a display of several superb specimens which (in true Blue Peter fashion) she had put together earlier in the day, most of which she kindly donated as raffle prizes inspiring a marked increase in the sale of tickets.


Lele began with an amusing short talk on how she became interested in flowers in her native Denmark, an involvement that continued throughout her later life travels with husband Chris. Step by step, she built up the model on an oasis, which was mounted on a small turntable, utilising leaves, sticks of wood, moss, flowers and fruit, much of which she had collected whilst walking in the village.  Quite quickly it seemed that the oasis disappeared and morphed into a stunning display set off by inclusion of three candles mounted into spiked holder.  It then became a star in the larger than usual draw.


After some lively questions and answers, tickets were drawn from the box under the supervision of Jane Warren, where it seemed that the prizes were shared reasonably equally by members, before Phil led a vote of thanks to Lene for a most enjoyable and instructive evening ,which was endorsed by everyone present.


The next meeting is to be held at 7-30 pm on Tuesday 12 January 2016 when our speaker will be Malcolm Mills from The Castle Gardens group will tell us about ‘Flowers that changed the world’.




The speaker at the Society’s second meeting of the winter season was Stephen Griffiths, Curator of Abbotsbury’s Sub-Tropical Garden.  Stephen, who is a well-travelled author and garden tour leader and a member of numerous professional bodies, including a RHS Plant Committee and the International Camellia Society, arrived at Abbotsbury just after the massive damage caused by the great storm of 1990.  His brief on taking up the appointment was to oversee a new ten-year development plan designed revive the historical garden to improve plant content and infrastructure so as to enhance tourism aspects.


His photo laden presentation began with a brief history of Abbotsbury which had been established adjacent to a grand seaward facing house built by the Fox-Strangeways family (subsequently the Earls of Ilchester) in 1765, who remained in residence until 1913, when the house was destroyed by a fire, after which the family returned to their former (and current) seat at Melbury House.  However the old wall garden was maintained and remains in family ownership.


Stephen explained that the wooded and sheltered 20 hectare site has its own micro climate in which more delicate plants than are usually grown in southern England can flourish, and that these which would otherwise need greenhouses can be grown outside.  These factors lend support to the formal and informal gardens, as well as the comprehensive woodland walks and walled garden.  After an informative question and answer interval, a vote of thanks proposed by the Chairman was supported and applauded by the 31 members who attended.  Jenny Hopkin then outlined arrangements for the 9 February 2016 visit to Robin and Gerry Maclachlan’s snowdrop collection and asked members to indicate preferences for ‘group block timings’ for the conducted tours.


The next meeting will be held on 8 December at 7-30pm in the Village Hall when Society member Lene Wade will give a tutorial on Christmas floral decorations.  The occasion will also include mulled wine and mince pies, plus a Christmas Raffle (donations as Prizes will be gratefully accepted by Jenny Hopkin (01300 341252).

SYDLING ST NICHOLAS PARISH COUNCIL – Monday, 21 September 2015, at 7.00pm


A meeting of the above will be held in Sydling St Nicholas village hall on

Monday, 21 September 2015, at 7.00pm.


The meeting will begin with a Democratic Half Hour.


  1. Apologies for absence
  2. Declarations of Interest
  3. Minutes of previous meeting (27/7/15)
  4. Matters arising from the minutes
  5. Finance

5.1 Bank balances

5.2 Invoices and receipts

5.3 Defibrillator account

  1. Any Other Business
  2. Date of next meeting






Sydling St Nicholas Church Bells

Sydling St Nicholas Church Bells

It is over one hundred years since any major work has been carried out on the bells at St Nicholas church and following an inspection by the Bellfounder and Bellhanger John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough, we are now in a position to begin fundraising for a restoration project. Following a meeting with the Churchwardens and a presentation of the report to the PCC, I thought it a good idea to write an article on the bells, their history and ringing at Sydling in recent times.

St Nicholas church has a ring of five bells hung at approximately the level of the louvre windows in the tower and rung from the tower floor some fifty feet below. The details and age of each bell are as follows:

Bell Diameter

Inch / mm

Note Weight

Cwt / Kg

Founder Date
Treble 34.00” (863mm) A 7.5cwt (381 Kg) John Warner 1900
2 37.25” (946mm) G 9cwt (457Kg) John Warner 1900
3 40.25” (1022mm) F# 11cwt (558Kg) William Warre 1611
4 44.25” (1123mm) E 14.5cwt (736Kg) William Warre 1613
Tenor 47.50” (1206mm) D 19cwt (965Kg) William Purdue 1579


The last restoration was in 1900 by John Warner when the present Treble and Second were re- cast, the older bells restored and a new cast iron frame installed to house the five bells with a provision for a sixth if ever required.

Details of ringing at Sydling are a little sketchy before the 1920’s. Conversations with older residents suggest that there were two services every Sunday and the bells were rung before both although it is unclear if all five were rung or just the treble ‘chimed’ by itself. What is clear is that an active band of ringers existed by 1933 as the first full peal* on the bells was rung on 31st October on the occasion of the Golden Wedding anniversary of the then vicar, Rev. J. Wynne Wernick. The band included George Thomas, Wilfred Lambert, Miss May Ridout, Kenneth Bowditch and was conducted by Bill Shute from Blandford. It took 3hrs 25min to ring and was a first peal for all four ‘local’ ringers. A ‘Peal Board’ hangs in the tower to record the event and interestingly, May Ridout was actually the vicar’s housekeeper.

Ringing was stopped nationally just after outbreak of World War 2 as the government instructed that bells must only be rung as a warning of invasion. The ban was relaxed in 1943 although it is highly likely a number of the ringers would have been serving in the armed forces or elsewhere as part of the war effort. After the war, ringing at Sydling recommenced and the band included Dick Newman and Albe Lovell among others.

Dick Newman became ‘Tower Captain’ and taught several villagers to ring over the years before handing over to John Symes. For a number of years, ringing for special occasions and weddings was organised by John and the band included himself, Dick, David Symes, Mike Lock, and Roy Rose. Sunday ringing was usually taken care of by Mrs Dolly Bugler who ‘chimed’ the treble bell for about five minutes before the service. Mrs Bugler used to look after the church, hand out and collect hymn books and sometimes pump the organ before the installation of an electric system.

Regular change ringing became restricted to weddings during the 1970’s and 1980’s although a peal was rung by a Salisbury Diocesan Guild band in 1973. Two further peals were then rung, one in 1982 by a Dorset County Association (DCA) band and another in 1989 by a band from the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild.

After John Symes passed away, his brother David became Tower Captain. He regrouped the remainder of the local band and began teaching a group of younger villagers so that the bells could be rung regularly again. Teaching bell handling at Sydling is not easy due to the older style of fittings and the long rope length however, with help from the DCA who ran a six week training course, several new recruits were found. Ringing was then possible two Sundays each month along with special occasions and weddings. The Sydling band also rung for weddings at Frampton and at Stratton before the bells in the latter became unringable in the mid 1990’s.

It became clear that some quite urgent maintenance would soon be required and a report was compiled by a local bell hanger in 1995. One of the ringers, Kevin Rose, did a sponsored ‘bungee jump’ from a crane at an event held at the Greyhound Inn. This helped finance a new set of bell ropes and other small repairs were dealt with by the team although major fund raising would be required for a complete re-hang of the bells.

During the late 1990’s regular service ringing declined once again. Apart from a half-hour of half muffled ringing following the announcement of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, the only notable performance was a peal for my parents wedding anniversary on 17th July 1998. Having been granted permission by the church wardens, I was joined by four other DCA members and the peal took 3hrs and 13min to complete.

David Symes stopped ringing due to a hip operation and moved to Cattistock which left the band without a captain. Several other ringers either moved away or stopped ringing for personal reasons which meant no regular ringing for some time. Graham Millard approached me shortly before the millennium and asked if I would take over and try to re-introduce some service ringing. I re-grouped the band to ring on 1st January 2000 and since then we have tried to ring for most Family Services along with special occasions and events. It has sometimes been difficult as at one stage, there were only five ringers so if someone was absent due to holidays or family commitments, we had to cancel.

I arranged another peal (the last rung here), for the Golden Jubilee of H.M. The Queen on 2nd June 2002. I was joined by a group of friends from the Salisbury Diocesan Guild who have a fondness for heavy and difficult bells, and completed it in 3hrs and 17min. Since 2000, a number of quarter peals have been rung and two of the current band have been successful in recording there first, Ros Lovelock and Kiri Tucker. Regular ringing still takes place on the second Sunday of each month where possible and for special services at Easter and Christmas along with weddings. The current band are eight in number and consist of Andrew Newman, Keith Durden, Ros Lovelock, Dylan Reisenburger, Kevin Rose (Rookie),Diane Tucker, Kiri Tucker and myself.

I will conclude as I began on the subject of maintenance. Like all machinery, anything made from wood, metal and with moving parts will not last indefinitely and require regular inspection, servicing and the occasional repair. Church bells are no different and the ‘technology’ at Sydling dates from 1900 when this style of bell hanging was commonplace. Most bells have now been re-hung using modern ball bearings, cast iron head stocks, double metal pulley blocks and modern ‘bushed’ clapper fittings. The current arrangement consists of plain bearings that require lubrication each time the bells are rung, heavy elm headstocks, single wooden pulleys and ‘Baldrick’ style clapper fittings with timber spreader boards and leather strap bushes. The three older bells have ‘cast-in’ crown staples which should be removed to prevent damage to the bells and although the frame is in very good condition, it requires cleaning and repainting.

The nature of the required restoration work is specialist and should be undertaken by a suitable bell hanger. I was fortunate to meet an engineer from John Taylor (Bell founder) of Loughborough who was working in Dorset in October 2013. He carried out an in-depth inspection and compiled report on the condition of the bells which hi-lighted some urgent work. Many of the frame and bell fitting bolts had slackened off over time causing some frame movement. He returned the following week and assisted by Tim Collins from Bradford Peverel, Diane and myself; spent an afternoon tightening all the bolts. This has improved the handling of the bells and is the beginning of what I hope will be a successful restoration project.

I have copies of the bell hangers report if anyone would like to see it and have presented a copy to the PCC. The cost of a complete re-hang of the existing ring will be in the region of £40,000 although that may be reduced if local help is provided. Due to the age of the bells it should be possible to obtain a grant but will rely on substantial fund raising. The bells are fine to ring at present but are unattractive to ringers not used to heavy, difficult going bells and are not ideal for teaching new recruits in their present state.

* Peal – A peal is a continual piece of ringing in excess of 5000 changes. The length of a peal with five changing bells is 5040 changes made up of 42 ‘extents’ of 120 changes.

* Quarter Peal – A quarter peal is exactly that, a quarter of a full peal i.e. 1260 changes usually 10 extents of 120 changes and a sixty.

The Sydling St Nicholas ringers would like to thank all those who have kindly contributed to the bell restoration fund. If anyone has any questions about the bells or bell ringing in general, please contact me on 01300 341018 or by e-mail at


Gallery Photos

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