Death of Mick Exton

Death of Mick Exton

We are very sad to report the death of Mick Exton, who was a key adviser to the Tower & Bell project at Hawton Church.
Mick was the Southwell diocese bells advisor for over 50 years until ill health forced him to retire. In this position he ensured that any church bell or tower modifications, or augmentation of bells was safe and complied with legislation, and ensuring that any works carried out were both feasible and suitable for the many churches who asked for his advice over the years.
This included Hawton and he gave all his advice freely and generously. In our grant applications he pointed how to word our applications so we had 8 bells initially in a 10-bell frame, allowing for the addition of the 2 new trebles to make a superb 10, making Hawton one of only 6 churches in Nottinghamshire to have 10 bells.
He was a very accomplished ringer,  but due to ill health was not able to ring at Hawton. Nonetheless, he did attend the dedication of the bells to see the completion of his last major project.  Hawton bells were rung on his 90th-birthday, 4th July 2022. He was sent a sound clip of the ringing,  which he had requested and very much appreciated. He has donated his marvellous collection of hand bells to Hawton Church, a magnifcent present, and those who have heard them pronounce them to be quite excellent. 

Addition of two further bells to complete a ring of ten


Because of the generosity of our donors and the abiding scrimping philosophy of our volunteers,  who put over 1500 hours of work into the project entirely free, we have a surplus of funds after completion of the main project. We have also had a generous offer of a bell from Lancaster. The Tower and Bell Restoration Committee has therefore suggested that the ringing chamber in the Tower, which has space for 10 bells, should have two additional bells, one of which will be newly cast.  This will be paid for entirely by donations already received. 

The bells have now been added. One of the advantages of the extra bells is that these would be smaller and lighter than the others in the tower and so are ideal for training junior bell-ringers. Training has already started with younger bell-ringers under the supervision of Geoff Wells, so please excuse any discordant notes emanating from the tower. 

The parish of Hawton, and soem way beyond when the wind is in the right direction, can now hear the bells regularly, especially on Sundays at 8.45-9.20 before services, at weddings and on Friday evening when there is bell-ringing practice.  We even have new junior ringers, so we are training the next generation in an enveloping and ancient tradition.       


This marks the support we have received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Tower and Bell Restoration Project


Since we heard on 15th February in 2018 that the National Lottery Heritage Fund had awarded us a grant for £85,700 in connection with Tower Restoration and Bell Project we have had a year of good progress. The first component of this grant (50%) was released to Hawton Church at the end of March.  This grant, together with the other money we have raised in a wide raft of initiatives has now allowed the work to be completed.  We had not realised the extent of wind and rain damage in the Tower and the degree of rot in our 15th century beams. We have been fortunate that none of the beams had actually collapsed before they were formally removed.

We were very sorry that Harry Harrington was no longer with us to receive this news. He was a regular member of our Tower and Bells Restoration Group and his wise counsel was always appreciated.  He died on 4th January, 2018 after a long struggle against the lung disease, mesothelioma, probably contracted while he was in the Royal Navy from contact with asbestos. Harry was a regular bell-ringer at St Peter's Church, Farndon, and continued this almost until the week of his death.  He will be missed by many for his quiet demeanour, his extensive experience of bell-ringing and a life well spent, and his constant kindness.

As a tribute to Harry the four Hawton bells were clocked (they cannot be rung formally as the frame is unsafe) by four ringers under the supervision of Geoff Wells, on the morning of 29th January, 2019, the date of Harry's funeral. The video of the occasion, taken by Peter Sargeant, is shown below, and this is followed by two other video clips, one filmedwhen the bells were taken to the Market Square at Newark in August 2019 and the second at the memorial event for Harry Harrington on 4th January 2020. You can here the ringers performing the Cambridge Major at the end of the clip.

Harry took part in the promotional film for the National Heritage Lottery Grant application that is also shown below. The Watermeadow Mystery: the Secret Treasure of Hawton is also dedicated to his memory and was acknowledged on the first page of the novel, published in June, 2018, which may be made into a film shortly. The inscription on the second recently cast bell is also dedicated to Harry.

Hawton Bells being run on the morning of Harry Harrington's funeral on 29th January 2018
First ringing of the Hawton Bells for 50 years
Two years on: the Cambridge Major peal rung on 4th January, 2020
The bells are normally hidden in the belfry, but here they are in Market Square, Newark in August 2019
David Britton, Geoff Wells and Peter Tyrer give the background to the project

A project of many phases

The problem

We need to replace the bells and ringing chamber in the West Tower of the church as otherwise there is a real danger of bell collapse and possible injury.

History of bells 

The Tower, clearly visible across the fields around Hawton, was erected in 1482 and contains four bells in minor key, but these are currently unringable. The ancient oak bell-frame also urgently needs repair and conservation.  It is reported that our bells have not been pealed or rung in rounds for over 50 years (although one bell is still chimed as a Sanctus bell).  The 50 year wait was ended on 29th January, 2018, when on the morning of the funeral of one of our most esteemed bell-ringers, Harry Harrington, when the four bells were hit with hammers and sounded again. The sound - not particularly euphonious, can be heard in the video above.

The bell-ringing floor and fate of existing bells 

  The bell ringing floor has become unsafe and is currently closed. All our bells are the product of Nottingham bell founders, the listed second bell by Richard Mellors of 1482, coeval with the tower, and the remainder cast by George Oldfield: the tenor is of 1624 and the treble and third bell are both dated 1655 (during the Commonwealth period). The oak bell-frame dates from the 17th century with fittings, possibly early 20th century, by Whites of Appleton.

The phases of restoration

The restoration of the Tower and Bells is both extensive and complex and will be phased as follows -

Phase 1 - Ground Floor – Erect scaffolding, repair defective masonry, replace defective timber beam, re-board unsafe intermediate floor, remove scaffolding.

Phase 2 – Ground Floor – Provide new oak and glass ringing gallery with access from tower stairway.

Phase 3 – Belfry Level - Repair defective masonry, replace louvres, make watertight, apply preservative to existing timber bell-frame.

Phase 4 – All Levels – Repair remaining defective masonry, complete outstanding joinery, re-wire, up-grade and extend tower electrics,

Phase 5 – Intermediate Floor (High Level) - Provide new galvanised steel bell-frame, rehang with all new fittings three of the existing bells plus five additional bells, two being newly cast by Taylors of Loughborough.  Rehang the existing treble bell for use as a Sanctus bell.

The cost

The estimated costs of this project are around £200,000 of which we have, by June,  2018, raised £68,000. An application was also made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the main part of the funding.  You will note from the latest news at the beginning of this page that a grant of £85,700 has now been obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the work on the project can now start immediately. With savings made on volunteer labour for the project we now feel that every part of the project can be achieved with an additional £9,000 of funding, so grant initiatives and fund-raising events are still needed. We are still dependent on offers of co-operation from several organisations, with building work free of charge from Newark Technical College, materials from Carters engineering firm and storage and transport from the local firm Pykett Brothers in Hawton village.  Local building firms are being engaged to do the work.   Much of the money raised thus far has been donated by local people and members of the congregation, and we are now asking you to let us know how and in what way you might be able to support this important project. 


The timescale deadline for completion of the restoration and new bell installation is 30th April, 2019. Please help us to meet this.

The first new bell

On 14th December the first bell, the Lawrence Bell, was cast at John Taylor's Bell Foundry in Loughborough (see photograph). By kind permission of the Foundry, 33 people travelled from Hawton and Farndon to witness the casting and have a conducted tour of the Foundry by George Dawson. The Bell was donated by Charles Lawrence in memory of his parents. A peroration was read by David Britton after the casting of the Lawrence Bell. This was a highly evocative and moving occasion and all who attended will retain the memory of this event. It was filmed in full by Derek Smith as part of the history of Hawton Church through the ages. Derek will also be continuing his filming of all the events linked to the church as part of the Heritage Lottery grant plan, but his filming is very inconspicuous so hope it will not trouble anybody. Occasions such as weddings and special events may also be filmed.

We will be putting forward the final film to national exhibitions as we are so pleased with its high quality and interest level.

The casting of the Lawrence bell can be seen in the video above. The molten bell-metal is poured into a cast buried in sand. The final bell can be seen in the subsequent still photographs. 


The second new bell

This will be cast at John Taylor's Bell Foundry on 14th June, 2018  The occasion will again be filmed, so keep watching, and look at the events page of this web-site.




There are many ways to donate to our project.  You can "contact us" for further information but here are three ways:-

1. Send a cheque payable to All Saints Church Hawton PCC to the Treasurer, Dr David Britton, at 31, Valley Prospect, Newark, NG24 4QH

2.  Pay to Skipton Building Society - Hawton Bell Fund - A/C No. 986116553 - SORT CODE  20-78-42

3. Pay to Southwell and Nottingham Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers Fund  "HAWTON CHURCH" via CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) Account No. 00088133 - SORT CODE 40-52-40. If paying to support the Watermeadow Mystery please put 'Watermeadow' in the second line of payment.

Please mark cheques "HAWTON CHURCH BELL FUND"

GIFT AID - If you are a taxpayer, we can claim 25% of your donation from HMRC. Please use the "contact us" button to ask for a Gift Aid form from our church to complete.

Or telephone us on 01636 679245 for further ways to donate, such as gifts in kind, voluntary skilled work on the bells, transport and fundraising at your place of work or worship to help us.

We can offer donors a visit to John Taylor & Co in Loughborough to see the way bells are cast and, numbers permitting, a visit when our own bells are being cast.



The Lawrence Bell being cast at John Taylor's Bell Foundry on 14th December, 2017 (photograph by Derek Smith)
Casting the Lawrence Bell
Here is a video of the bell being cast at the John Taylor Foundry
The Lawrence Bell in January 2018 before fettling
Short film about the Tower and Bells Project

In memory of Harry Harrington 

Tom Crawford 03.01.2020 19:07

My wife Carol and I are new to the Village of Hawton and our first visit to the Hawton Church was made after only a few days from our arrival, very interesting.

Peter Tyrer 03.01.2020 19:19

We look forward to seeing more of you, Tom and Carol, and others from the village. Please let us know what you think of the bells.

Peter Tyrer 23.12.2019 18:41

We'll see what we can do!

Rosemarie E. Poffley 23.12.2019 10:17

I shall be staying in Newark after Christmas and wonder if the bells will be pealed before the Communion Service at 09:30 on 29th December?

Margaret Chilton 24.12.2019 10:24

Hello. I will see if I can get any ringers together. If I can it will only be rounds and call changes and maybe only six bells. Margaret

Peter Tyrer 20.12.2019 21:39

This is a message for all. We have heard nothing but praise for the sounds of the bells. If there are any complaints -of any sort - please say so on this site.

Rosemarie E. Poffley 26.11.2019 09:13

I loved the video at Taylor's bell foundry. I went many years ago when one of our bells, from St Mary Magdalene, Sutton-in-Ashfield, was refurbished.

Rosemarie E. Poffley 25.11.2019 06:41

Enid & Bob Locke, whose memorials are on the wall behind the church, were very dear friends of mine. Wendy, their daughter, told me about this wonderful project.

Peter Tyrer 26.11.2019 07:50

Thank you Rosemary. You must come and hear the bells at some time. They sound absolutely fantastic. Peter Tyrer

Ian Robinson 22.12.2017 13:11

We had a great day watching this historic event and we look forward to hearing the Lawrence bell ring out from All Saints soon.

Helen Tyrer 15.12.2017 14:14

This event was very exciting and when more bells are cast do not miss the opportunity of visiting the Foundry

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Latest comments

03.01 | 19:19

We look forward to seeing more of you, Tom and Carol, and others from the village. Please let us know what you think of the bells.

03.01 | 19:07

My wife Carol and I are new to the Village of Hawton and our first visit to the Hawton Church was made after only a few days from our arrival, very interesting.

24.12 | 10:24

Hello. I will see if I can get any ringers together. If I can it will only be rounds and call changes and maybe only six bells. Margaret

23.12 | 18:41

We'll see what we can do!