Chimes of Toppesfield

PUBLISHED: 10:55 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:09 20 February 2013

Toppesfield Church

Toppesfield Church

Vic Turner explains why the sound of bells ringing in Toppesfield might just reach America

STANDING high on the crest of a hill (287feet), Toppesfield and Gainsford End are separated by the beginning of the upper Colne valley, in fact the source of the River Colne is from the neighbouring village of Ridgewell.
The village of Toppesfield and the hamlet of Gainsford End have a population of 417 approximately. The two communities enjoy the same parish and work well together.
Located just off the main highway between Colchester and Cambridge, the villages are a little off the beaten track, consequently few travellers have reason to pass through the parish and in many ways that is how residents would like it to remain.
In October 2002, a Community Store and Post Office was opened and is run and organised by volunteers from the two villages.
The two villages were without the village shop and Post Office for almost 16 months before enough money was raised through local events and donations.
Toppesfield boasts the shop, a pub and, of course, a church - St Margaret's of Antioch which is undergoing refurbishment.
Seven years ago a restoration committee was formed to have the church bells repaired and re-hung lower down in the tower and the new bells were unveiled on January 19 this year. There were originally five bells, but it was decided to augment them to eight. A dedication service and celebration in the village hall welcomed the new bells and excitement was high as the bells rang out across the valley to Gainsford End.
The parish is a thriving community with a very active get up and go spirit. Several events are held throughout the year, which are always well supported. Annually the Summer Fete is held in aid of the church's maintenance and later in the year an auction supper will be held. This is always thoroughly enjoyable and well supported by residents who recognise it as one of the village's best evenings.
Toppesfield's fame is far-reaching. In 1637, in the reign of Charles I, a Samuel Symons who lived at Olivers Farm in Toppesfield went to live in Massachusetts in America. When in England, Samuel Symons was a cursitor in Chancery, a legal appointment in the Chancery. He at once took official rank in Massachusetts, becoming an assistant to the court, and eventually became deputy governor until his death.
He settled quickly in Massachusetts and by 1650 there were enough farmers to justify incorporation of a village. This village is called Toppesfield and his home is named Olivers.

Vic Turner
Editor of Toppesfield and Gainsford End Newsletter

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