The Oxford Diocesan Bell Fund

Keep Witney Bells ringing!

Witney Ringing Society, with the Oxford Diocesan Bell Fund, is raising funds for the maintenance of the 8-bell peal at Grade 1 listed St Mary's, Witney, and augmentation to 10-bells by casting two new bells, personally, community or business donated.
raised of £50,000 target
RCN 268399

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Grade 1 listed St Mary the Virgin, situated at the end of one of the finest church greens in England, is the iconic heart of the historic market town of Witney in Oxfordshire, a town once famous all over the world for the production of "Witney Blankets".

In September 2018, the church and towns folk celebrated the 775th anniversary of St Mary's re-dedication by King Henry II in 1243. The King granted the people of Witney two deer from the royal forest of Wychwood for an annual feast. In 2018, a re-dedication peal was rung by a band of local bell ringers, and the world famous Wychwood Brewery produced a commemorative bottled beer.

The feast tradition is carried on to this day at the annual "Witney Feast" when a fun fair arrives in September. The feast is launched by the traditional "Gallopers Blessing" in The Leys park, behind St Mary's.

Enormous sums have already been raised to maintain the Grade 1 listed fabric of St Mary's, with more required to replace the floor and central heating. This means that the bell fund, run entirely on donations from ringers over many years, has become severely depleted in keeping the bells maintained.

The bells were last re-hung in 1938 by Taylor's of Loughborough, who replaced the old Elm frame with a cast iron frame, and re-cast the front three bells at the same time. The bells have had little spent on them since then other than essential maintenance. Unfortunately, the cast iron frame and fittings are now beginning to rust, the timber wheels and fittings are old and need re-furbishing, and the belfry would benefit from modernisation and weather proofing.

The 8-bell peal is one of the most historic and finest sounding in the area, with the oldest bell dating back to 1660. With its central location in the heart of the Witney and Woodstock branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers , the largest Guild in the world, generations of bell ringers aged from 9 to 90 have voluntarily rung and maintained Witney bells for Sunday service, teaching, and for ringing peals , and quarter peals.

Following the tragic Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in the closure of some towers in the branch, it was decided to launch an appeal to: a) create a bell maintenance fund, and b) raise funds for the casting of two brand new bells to augment the peal to 10 bells.

Each new bell will be significant and allow the town to enjoy the ringing for generations to come. The bells can be donated by individuals, businesses, or community donations. In the event of no individual or business donations being forthcoming, we propose the first new bell will be a "Commemoration Bell" - A bell dedicated to the people of Witney who have died during the coronavirus pandemic and to mark this historic time.

The second new bell will be the "Community Bell" - A bell that will be funded by various groups and donors within the community, if no single donor is forthcoming.

If the appeal is able to raise surplus funds, we would also like to make improvements to the historic church clock and carillon, which were donated over 150 years ago but are now in need of modernisation.

Taylor's of Loughborough has now provided a quotation for all the necessary maintenance to the current peal, the casting and hanging of two new bells, and the modernisation work on the church clock and carillon. The total required comes to approximately £75,000. The two new bells will cost around £15,000 each to be cast, tuned and hung.

The bells and components will survive for centuries like their predecessors, so donating to our bell fund is a wonderful way to memorialise a loved one. It is possible to sponsor an entire bell as a permanent tribute with your own inscription on the bell, as well as opportunities for individual bell donations, and to witness the bells being cast at Taylors of Loughborough , the last working bell foundry in the country. Donors can also sponsor specific parts of the bells and assembly like the wheels or headstocks, or add an inscription to the bells.

The more active may wish to be part of the installation!

Ringing on a peal of 10 bells is known as "Royal", which will also allow the town to commemorate the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and celebrate the accession of His Majesty King Charles III.

We hope you have found this interesting and if you would like any further information, please call the tower captain, Andrew Goldthorpe, on 07932 047441, or email

Please visit our branch YouTube channel to hear Witney Bells, to see the Carillon in action, and to see a bell being cast at Taylors -

You can also keep in touch with Witney Bells on our Instagram page -

Please also visit YouTube to view some wonderful drone footage of St Mary's by our friend Gary Douglas -

About the charity

The Oxford Diocesan Bell Fund

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RCN 268399
The Fund’s objective is to raise and collect sums of money for investment in suitable charitable investments (as advised by the Diocese of Oxford Investment Advisor) and applying the income arising from the investments in or towards the repair and renewal of church bells in the Diocese of Oxford.

Donation summary

Total raised
+ £104.25 Gift Aid
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