Oranges and Corge, it’s the bells of Saint George

Have you ever thought of bell ringing as a pastime? This year, St.George’s Church in Vernet-Les-Bains received ten new bells. They are the first change-ringing bells in France, and were cast by John Taylor & Co at their foundry in Loughborough.

The church, which was built in the early 20th century by the English, was funded with contributions from famous author Rudyard Kipling and the daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Beatrice among others. It has a tower but no bells were ever installed.

Several years ago a well-known English bell ringer, Jeff Ladd, had the idea of fundraising to install a set of bells. With the help and cooperation of the commune of Vernet-les-Bains and the Fondation du Patrimoine, a project was launched to manufacture the bells and bring them over to France.

The particularity of English bell ringing is that the bells are controlled with ropes pulled by ringers, and the ringers can change the order of the bells at each pull of the rope because the bells are mounted on a wheel. The very harmonious sound that this produces can be heard in English villages every weekend.

On feast days and Sundays it will now be heard for the first time in France in Vernet les Bains.

It is particularly appropriate that these English bells should be installed in Vernet les Bains which has long had a strong English connection. The village has the only monument to the Franco-British Entente Cordiale and it is hoped that this new project will continue this fine tradition.

The ‘Entente Cordiale’ monument next to the mairie is the only one of its kind in France. Two white marble statues representing France and Britain perch upon the Canigou granite base, sculpted by Roussillon sculptor Gustave Violet.

Proposed in 1912, it was originally to be built in honour of the wealthy British visitors who frequented the fashionable spa. Ox-drawn carts began dragging granite from the bed of the River St-Vincent but the outbreak of WW1 brought the project to an end.

In 1920, the decision was made to continue the monument, dedicated both to the Entente Cordiale and to the memory of so many killed during the war.

Jeff Ladd and Michael Strutt will be happy to give lessons to those, young and old, wishing to learn this interesting activity. Interested? Please send your contact details to jeff.ladd@me.com

Fête des cloches

SATURDAY 28TH & SUNDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER

Enjoy a weekend of Catalan and British culture at the first fête des cloches (bell festival). There will be plenty of entertainment for the whole family including Morris dancing, bell ringing, period costume, fish and chips and a garden party. Everyone is welcome!

PROGRAMME

Saturday 28th

10am Les lavendières, Place de la République
11am Inauguration ceremony, Entente Cordiale
3.30pm Morris dancing & Sardanes, Place de la République
5.30pm Choir singing, Anglican church
7pm Irish entertainment
7.30pm Dinner-dance, Casino

Sunday 29th

9.30am – 11am Bell ringing concert, Anglican church
10am Blessing of bells, Anglican church
11am – 5pm Garden party, Parc du Casino
2pm Bell ringing concert, Anglican church

Leave a Comment