Tower of Strength

Stand here beneath the lofty arches on a winter's day, and the only sound, above the soughing of the wind, is the slow, iron heart-beat of the church clock, high above.

The bottom section of the tower, like much of the chancel at the other end of the church, dates from Sir Hugh de Calveley's 14th-century rebuilding of an earlier church. Embraced by the aisles, the tower stands on three fine Perpendicular arches within the nave. The tower has walls nearly six feet (2m) thick, and is founded on a sandstone outcrop - a rock of ages in another sense. The walls are strong enough to withstand the enormous stresses put upon them by the swinging of the bells. The ring of eight bells - the oldest an early 16th century tenor bell, the most recent two added at the close of the 19th century weighs a total of 66 hundredweight (3,350 kg). It is no wonder that early towers sometimes collapsed.

On windless days the peal of the bells still carries out to the old parish boundary a difficult task at Bunbury, despite a tower 70 feet (2lm) tall. For the ancient parish was large, ranging over 17,000 acres (6,800 ha) and twelve townships, from Tiverton to the north of Bunbury to Ridley in the south. Towers were once landmarks too. When the mediaeval forest of Mare and Mondrem stretched away on either side, and the Gowy valley was a maze of marshland, Bunbury church tower must have been a welcome sight.

Beyond the tower is the main body of the church - the nave.

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