Bell Ringing in 18th Century Cornwall

If you have been following the PBS series “Poldark” you have learned a lot about Cornwall, but may not know that bell ringing towers abound in Cornwall, England, surrounded by a rich culture and history. The beauty, flow and precision teamwork of bell ringing was an important part of the culture of the time, and indeed the church bells signified the time to come to a service, a time to pray and were rung on special occasions of a wedding or funeral service. In in the 1800s, as today, bell ringing was also an enjoyable leisure activity and ringers would gather and practice just for the fun of it. Here is one famous song that was written about a ringing contest between 5 towers, all of which are in Cornwall, and which took place during the time of the Poldark story. Egloshayle is a village in Northern Cornwall. Eglos being the Cornish word for church, and hayle being the Cornish word for estuary. The ringers named in the song are all buried in the churchyard there, and their names can still be seen on the headstones. It is called “The Egloshayle Ringers”:

Come all you jovial ringers, and listen to my tale
I’ll tell you of, five ringers bold, that lived in Egloshayle.
For ring or ray, they bore away, wherever they did go,
The music of the merry bells, was their delight to show.

There was Craddock, the cordwainer, he rang the treble bell;
John Ellery was, the second man, and few could him excel:
The third was Pollard, the carpenter, and the fourth was Thomas Cleave;
And Goodfellow, the tenor man, that rang him round so brave.

Now Craddock was, the treble man, he stepped ‘long with his toe;
And casting of, his eyes around, commanded them where to go:
They pulled away, with courage bold, which did their hearts revive;
Sweet music then was quickly heard, with: “one, two, three, four, five.”

They went out to Lanlivery, they brought away the prize;
They came back, to St. Tudy, and done the same likewise;
Lanlivery men, St. Mabyn men, St. Tudy and St. Kew;
But those five lads of Egloshayle, did all the rest outdo.

This little corps, they played so sure, no changes did they fear;
No man did ever, miss his turn, ‘twas joy to see and hear:
And people all, for miles around, did tell o’er hill and dale;
The fame of those, five ringers bold, that lived in Egloshayle.

2 thoughts on “Bell Ringing in 18th Century Cornwall

  1. Great to read this! Have you heard the song being sung? We are off to West Cornwall for a bit of ringing in about 3 weeks.

    • Hi Heather!
      We haven’t heard the song sung, but if you do in West Cornwall, let us know! God Bless you. Sounds wonderful!

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