The 2015 Bell Rehanging Project
The bells of St Andrew’s Church have been ringing out for over 300 years. Just like a car, from time to time they need essential servicing and maintenance. Unlike a car the period between major “servicing” is usually several decades!
Before the 2015 project the last time our bells had any major maintenance work was back in 1906. In the intervening years some of the parts which enable the bells to be rung had become worn to the extent that ringing the bells became increasingly difficult.
The diagram on the right shows all the components which enable a bell to be rung. Before work began the headstocks, wheels, stays, sliders and pulleys were made from wood. The only exception to this was the treble headstock which was made from cast iron.
The wooden headstocks were made from solid pieces of elm. Over the decades the weight of each bell on its headstock had caused the headstock to “sag” slightly. This pushed the bearings, on which the bells rotate, out of alignment and made the bells more difficult to ring. Some of the headstocks had also become twisted over the years. Decades of changing humidity and temperature can cause wood to distort, even great chunks of elm! The picture below is of the headstock on the seventh bell. If you look carefully you can see that the headstock had twisted through about 10° along its length, again making ringing the bell more difficult than it needed to be.
In late 2014 the ringers, with support from the PCC, began fundraising to give the bells there much needed maintenance. By mid 2015 the required £44,000 had been raised through a combination of generous donations and grants. Whites of Appleton began work on the bells in October 2015.
Once the bells had been removed from the tower they went to the Whitechapel foundry. There the iron crown staples were drilled from the bells and the bells were retuned before being returned to Whites. Resin pads were cast on the top of each bell to provide a flat surface to take new cast iron headstocks and bearings.
The old wheels were refurbished by Whites and the rims replaced. New sliders, slider bars, stays and pulleys were prepared and new clappers made for each bell.
Once the bells had been removed from the tower the frame was stripped bare of parts and rubbed down to remove a century of goop. Two coats of a hard enamel paint were then applied. A sound control frame and shutters was made for each of the four louvred windows in the belfry. They were constructed in the ringing room, covered in stainless steel mesh to keep critters out, then hauled up into the ringing room before being fitted into place. All of this work was carried out by the ringers themselves.
Just before the bells came back to the church a set of new bearing plates were attached to the frame in readiness for the bells.
The bells returned to the church on the 8th April 2016 and reinstallation work began on the 11th April. By the end of the week the bells were ringing out again!
A Service of Rededication was held on May 1st 2016 and a local band rang the first quarter peal on the bells later that day.
We have to thank both Whites of Appleton and the Whitechapel Foundry for the excellent job they did on our bells. We also have to thank the Hereford Diocesan Guild Bell Restoration Fund and the Stapleton Parish Council for their supprt. Most of all we have to thank those generous local residents who put their hands in their pockets to make this project possible in the first place.