Bell Restoration Project
Reconnecting the Bells
Once the bells were back in the ringing chamber the most frequently asked question was "When will the bells start ringing again?" People were always a little surprised at the response that it would be at least a couple of weeks. Although it had only taken a day to dismantle the bells putting them back together would be altogether more difficult. The problem is that there are so many bits and pieces to connect and they have to be connected with absolute precision.
On Wednesday 7th August, Kevan Borlase, Owen Borlase and I met at the church to make a start on the reconstruction. Over the course of the day we adjusted the position of all the bells in their pits, attached all the wheels and the stays to the bells, checked the alignment of the wheels with the floor boss holes and swung each bell by hand to establish that they would move freely.
Alas, not all the bells were as well aligned as we would have liked. The Treble only just cleared the frame when it was swung and the number three bell clipped the raised lettering of its frame.
So we returned on Thursday to quickly sort out these issues. The Treble gave us no problem, the bell was realigned within twenty minutes or so which gave us a false sense of our achievements. It took us another hour and a half to persuade the third to sit square in the pit, properly aligned with its bearings and a full 2 mm clear of the lettering on the frame.
At last the job was done and we had achieved just about as much as we could to prepare the bells. On Monday 12th August Taylor's would return to assemble the the sliders, running boards, pulley boxes, ropes and so forth. There was still a great deal of work to be done.
As expected Andrew Ogden (John Taylor & Co) arrived on the following Monday, he and Kevan Borlase had an incredibly busy week, working all hours to try to get the bells ringing. This involved such activities as drilling new bolt holes in the old cast iron frame, fixing sliders, repositioning pulley boxes and pulleys, hanging ropes and making sure that the bells would swing freely and set properly.
While all this was going on at the top of the tower the ringing chamber had to be sorted out, the peal boards had to be rehung and the floor cleared so that ringers would have somewhere to stand.
On Sunday 18th August we were able to ring five bells for the morning service at St Andrew's, Calstock and again for Evensong. The ringers were keen to try the new set up and the parishioners were very pleased to have their bells back in action. There was still a bit more work to be done but we now had most of the bells ringing.
Monday brought us all back to the tower so that we could tackle the remaining tasks. The wood accessories for the Number 5 bell had to be set up; the clock hammer had to be put in place and the chime hammer needed to be installed; we also had to test the bells, and finally clean, tidy, remove all the tools and hoover (yes, vacuum) the belfry and clock room.
Once again drilling through the cast iron bell frame proved to be hard and slow work but Andrew Ogden and Kevan Borlase got there in the end. By close of play on Tuesday 20th August the woodwork on the Number 5 bell was securely attached to the bell frame and all six bells were working.
That evening we were able welcome Doug and Beryl Petipher to the church to celebrate their Ruby Wedding Anniversary. As one of our previous Tower Captains, Doug was keen to try out the new arrangement.
We were joined by additional bell hangers from Taylor's who came to Calstock to help to give the bells a thorough test. It was agreed by all that the bells went well and were much easier to handle than previously.
With all the bells working the next task was to sort out the clock hammer. This is linked to the clock mechanism and strikes the outside of the Number 5 bell at each hour. With the new headstock, the bell hangs higher in the pit than it did before, so the hammer had to be repositioned. It had to be in just the right place to strike the bell in the right place on the hour but be out of the way during ringing. After so many months of being out of action there was also a fair amount of adjustment needed to make the clock and hammer strike the correct number of blows at each hour.
Next the chime hammer was fitted in the frame. This is used to toll a single bell and had to be aligned so that it could strike the inside of the Number 3 bell when required, but be out of the way of the bell when it is rung full circle. A new rope for this hammer had to be hung down to the ringing chamber.
All that was left was to clear everything away and do a little bit of touching up of the paintwork on the bell frame.
That was it - the job was done. We celebrated with tea and biscuits (we really know how to live in Calstock) and then went our separate ways.
Our own bells were back and ringing well. It had been hard work but rewarding. We have set the bells up for another hundred years of use, I hope future generations will enjoy them as much as we do.