Gym and TV tycoon in row over when parish bell ringers can set to work in the 600-year-old tradition


Gym and TV tycoon in row over when parish bell ringers can set to work in the ‘much-loved’ 600-year-old tradition at the church that neighbours his £20million mansion

  • Local millionaire tycoon asked St Mary’s church to ring its bells continuously
  • It was in honour of the occasion of his son’s wedding last Saturday afternoon
  • But neighbours and locals were irked that one millionaire got veto over the bells 

Over six centuries, the bells of St Mary’s church have rung out loud and clear.

So parishioners were surprised to find the bell ringers now feel they have to tell the occupant of the £20million mansion next door before setting to work.

And although television and gym tycoon Charles Haswell, 73, is generally ‘not a fan’ of the bells, it seems he can be when it suits him.

He requested the tower captain keep it quiet last Saturday afternoon because his son was getting married in his rambling garden.

But when she jokily offered a peal to mark the occasion, he accepted.

Not only that, the bell ringers were then asked to keep going for as long as they could – without a thought, it seems, for other local residents who might have had enough. One parishioner at St Mary’s in exclusive Barnes, near the Thames in west London, said last night: ‘It’s really sad that just one multi-millionaire next door can tell the church not to ring its bells in the middle of the day.

‘I could understand if it was at 3am. These bells are much-loved by many. If anyone is consulted about them ringing, it should be everyone. When the bell ringers revealed on social media what had happened about the wedding, people were furious that one man had so much influence. The bell ringers deleted the angry comments.’

Although television and gym tycoon Charles Haswell, 73, is generally 'not a fan' of St Mary's church bells, he requested the tower captain keep it quiet last Saturday afternoon because his son was getting married in his rambling garden

Although television and gym tycoon Charles Haswell, 73, is generally ‘not a fan’ of St Mary’s church bells, he requested the tower captain keep it quiet last Saturday afternoon because his son was getting married in his rambling garden

St Mary’s dates back almost a thousand years, with its tower erected in 1485.

Local farmer Thomas Smythe donated its first bell 90 years later, and it is still in use today – Mr Haswell allowing, that is. The former director of the David Lloyd sports centres is now a TV production boss and has lived next to St Mary’s for 30 years.

His huge house is rumoured to have once attracted the attention of actor Hugh Grant, whose offer to buy it was turned down.

Mr Haswell’s influence over the bells emerged when the ringers said on Instagram: ‘Our very close neighbour isn’t a fan of the bells, but of course we try to keep good relations and email well in advance when there is going to be [a] peal or extra ringing.

‘A while back we had an email asking if we could ensure there was NO RINGING as his son was to be married in the garden.

‘Naturally we agreed, but rather tongue in cheek said that as a goodwill gesture we’d be happy to ring for a few minutes maybe when the couple arrived. Much to our surprise this was accepted!

But when she jokily offered a peal to mark the occasion, he accepted. Not only that, the bell ringers were then asked to keep going for as long as they could – without a thought, it seems, for other local residents who might have had enough

But when she jokily offered a peal to mark the occasion, he accepted. Not only that, the bell ringers were then asked to keep going for as long as they could – without a thought, it seems, for other local residents who might have had enough

‘We then had a text towards the end of the agreed ten minutes saying please could we carry on for longer! We have even been promised a donation to our training fund to thank us.’

St Mary’s bell ringers’ tower captain Wendy Archibald said: ‘Charles does not have a veto, but he’s not a great fan of the bells.

‘We’ve managed to keep him sweet by letting him know when there’s going to be a lot of ringing. I thought the story about the wedding was lovely. In the end the wedding planner texted me saying ‘Ring as long as you like’.

‘I invited Charles to our last bell ringers’ dinner – and he came. But it’s a problem a lot of churches have. The bells might be hundreds of years old, then somebody moves in, their front door three feet away, and they moan about the bells. You think, who was here first?’

Mr Haswell did not respond to requests for comment.

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