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The Lychgate problem

Updated: Apr 15, 2019

Calstock tenor on a pallet on a pallet truck

Moving half ton bells around a church and churchyard requires no small amount of effort. The bells have to be carefully placed on a pallet, or maybe the pallet has to be carefully placed under the descending bell. The pallet truck can then be used to move the pallet around; but only on slopes, so all the steps in the church need to have ramps built to take the combined weight of the bell, the pallet and the pallet truck.

Keeping the bell, pallet and pallet truck under control

Whether it is a matter of gently guiding the bell down the path to the lychgate or more rigorously pushing the bell up the ramp to get it out of the church, there is always a slight concern about how well the bell is under control. But none of this quite compares with the issue of how to get the bell out of the churchyard and onto the road side.

There would not have been any major problem had it not been for the coffin rest so generously installed by the Honeycombe family in 1984. This granite block substantially limits access through the lychgate. As the block is located slightly off centre, a small bell on a pallet could potentially pass through the larger opening; but all the bells that were bigger than the pallets, were also be bigger than the path through the lychgate. So how could we remove them from the churchyard?

Option one - there is a large padlocked gate at the far end of the graveyard, easily big enough to get the bells through. Problems - did anyone have a key to the padlock and could we really drag the bell on the pallet on the pallet truck 100m down a gravel path. This didn't look like a good option.

Option two - use a spider like grabber to lift the bells over the churchyard wall or over the top of the lychgate. Problems - lots of overhanging trees and a complete lack of understanding about exactly what would be needed and how to arrange it.

Option three - demolish the lychgate. Clearly this was getting fanciful and there was still the problem that there might not be enough space between the coffin rest and the rubble.

Chris Facey with the tenor suspended on the telehandler

Option four - this was a winner - use a telehandler to reach through the lychgate, pick up the pallets and lift them over the coffin rest. Enter Chris and John Facey who owned just such a machine and were happy to help us out. They even went on to pop the bells into the removal van of Cyril Worth & Son who would take them to Loughborough. We couldn't have done it without them: thank you.


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