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Raising the bells

Tenor going up

On Wednesday 31st July we started getting ready to take the bells back up to the bell chamber. Kevan Borlase and I arrived at the church just in time to realise we'd forgotten there was a service, so we rushed up the tower to have a planning session. Once the service was finished we were ready to go; we opened up the two hatches, set up the gin pulley over a couple of beams in the belfry and began lifting all the bits and pieces out of the ringing chamber and into the clock room. During the course of the morning we moved clappers, stays, sliders and pulley boxes, in fact everything that could be lifted through the lower hatch with only the gin pulley to help. Without the heavy lifting gear, which we needed to move parts of the frame out of the way, we could go no further.

We reconvened on Thursday morning and were joined firstly by Robin Clowes, and later by Chris Facey, Peter Thomson (John Taylor & Co), Jane Gilbert and Owen Borlase. As Kev and Robin were the first to arrive they started by separating the wheels into their two halves and moving them up to the clock room. Before long the clock room was so crowded out with accessories there was scarcely room for people.

Once Peter arrived we lifted various tools, including the electric hoist, up the tower. The first task was to use the hoist to move the section of the frame which sat over the hatch, out of the way and lift the remaining floor boards. The winch was then repositioned over the hatches and we were ready to lift the first bell.

The team at the end of Thursday

The order the bells went up the tower was dictated by their position in the bell frame. First the Treble and the number 3 went up; these bells sit in the north east and south east corners of the bell frame respectively, on either side of the hatch. Next came the number 5 and number 4 bells which sit in the north west and south west corners of the frame, behind the hatch. The last bell to be lifted on Thursday was the Tenor, this was set on wood supports above the 4th and 5th bells on the west side of the tower.

The tenor sitting on the bell frame

Bright and early Friday morning we were all back at the church. First job of the day was a cup of tea to get us all ready for the morning ahead. Then we started moving the rest of the accessories from the clock room up to the belfry, packing everything onto the window ledges safely out of the way of the bell pits.

The final bell to go up was the second, this was hauled carefully off the floor of the church and up towards the bell chamber. Once at the top of the tower it was held suspended over its pit while the hatch was made safe and the bell frame reinstated to its original position. When all the heavy metal work was back in place, the bell was lowered down to sit where it belonged in a pit directly over the hatch.

Then the tenor was raised off its resting place on the frame and placed in the last empty space. The task of controlling a 10 cwt bell as it swayed menacingly above the pit was no mean feat, but the team accomplished it with great skill.

After that it was just a question of clearing up. All the kit, tools, ladder, chains. gin pulleys, blocks and the electric hoist were lowered back down the tower and the hatches were closed. Before long all the equipment was out of the church, the wooden ramps and floor coverings had been moved away and apart from a fine collection of flowers around the font there was very little to show that the bells had ever left the tower.


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