The Bell Rehanging Project 2015/16
The bells of St Andrew’s Church have been ringing out for almost 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!
The last time our bells had any major maintenance work was back in 1906. Over the last 108 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 ringers, with support from the PCC, began fundraising to give the bells there much needed maintenance.
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. The bells will be fitted with new cast-iron headstocks and new bearings for the bells to swing on.
In addition to this a whole set of new clappers will be made together with the devices that allow the clappers to swing freely inside the bells. The sliders and pulleys will be replaced and, just like any musical instrument after it has been played for a while, the bells themselves will be retuned slightly.
To enable this work to be carried out the bells were removed from the tower and taken to a foundry. Whilst the bells are away we will clean and paint the bell frame with an enamel paint to protect it from future corrosion. We also plan to install some sound control so that we can adjust the volume of the bells outside the church.
We anticipate that the bells will return around Easter 2016 with all new fittings. The end result will be a beautiful sounding peal of bells that should not need a major service for another 100 years!