History and Information about the
Down Family Ringers Picture

A photograph was taken when the bells were removed for re-hanging in October 1911 with copies for the various family members. These were put to one side until being mounted and framed many years later. The pre-war frame, one of several (six?), is of re-claimed timber from the old bell frame (the wood was sold, with other items, for the sum of £1 17s. [£1.85]). The oak was originally grown on and came from the family farm, Fisherton, Atherington, and the frames made by Arthur Edwin Down, perhaps as apprentice pieces.

I am told that my Father, who was a joiner and cabinet maker, made six frames from the original timber of the bells’ framework. I have two of those that are mounted and framed, cousin Harold has one, and I understand a sixth is in the Beaford Archive.

That photograph, together with up-to-date colour photographs, taken by Ian Snell, High Bickington, in 1993, was the basis of an oil by Gerald John Moore of Stoke St. Gregory, Somerset. The 36 inches by 18 painting on canvas was commissioned by Arthur John Down, High Bickington, and following site visits and after preparation of a cartoon to settle its size, scale and layout, was completed in 1994.

Its frame is of selected English oak, of a profile and with mouldings echoing the original early frame, made by Clive Lewis of Braunton.

Subsequently a small, similarly framed, picture was commissioned of the one missing sibling of the family, Miss Annie Emmeline Down. Although she would have been 10 at the time of the original photograph, she is represented and depicted sitting on the flat blue lias slate-topped stone tomb shown in the main picture, which can be seen to this day in Atherington Churchyard.

The artist made reference to a small faded and almost indecipherable “studio” print photograph of “Aunty” circa 1904, which still exists, and use of samples of antique lace provided by Loveday James, Appledore, as a guide for the child’s dress, which is typical of the period. This small oil was finished in 1996. As a curious and coincidental point of interest, Loveday James was also born on 5th June.

To gather this together, one of the original frames was carefully re-made which, with diffuse non-reflecting glass, frames one of the early photographs, behind which this brief historical record may be found.

Separately a bell board was also made by Clive Lewis, on which the set of 12 handbells in A major is displayed. These were regularly used in Atherington Church, and at Christmas time for carols and the like, as evidenced by the worn, repaired and, in some cases, replaced, hide straps on which the tone of the bell is roughly marked, rather than stamped, by Warners of London. These handbells first belonged to Uncle Harry, he’s second from the right next to my Father, and the clappers have tapered leather strikers in two directions. These shapes partly echo the cruciform decoration of the Norman Font in High Bickington St Mary’s Church, which motif my Father adopted on the oak font cover, which he made and donated to the Church many years ago.

Copyright © 2001 - A John Down

Valid HTML 4.01 Valid CSS