From left to right: David Hill, John Simms, Cozmic Dave, Bruce Leigh, Ian Hasman
If you’ve been out and about in Newnham today you’ll have heard occasional dongs and bangs coming from the belfry of St Peters. That’s because we have finally started work on the restoration of our bells. And the first task is to do a lot of dismantling so that the bells and frame can be taken away to be refitted and refurbished. But before we can remove the bells we have to clear a path so that we can lower everything through the three hatchways in the tower to ground level. This is no simple task, because entangled around the bells is the mechanism for controlling the carillon, whose hammers strike the bells to play seven different tunes.
Our main restoration contract has gone to the Bridport company, Nicholson Engineering. Their specialist bellhanger, Ian Hasman and Newnham volunteer, Bruce Leigh, have spent the morning labelling and storing over 60 rods which, with the help of roughly 40 levers, transfer the motion of the carillon drum up to the bells above. The levers and hammers will go away to Bridport for shot blasting.
While that was going on, three other volunteers, John Simms, from Minsterworth, and David Hill and Andy Vivian from Newnham, were removing the fittings from the bells. These include the stays, sliders, braces, wheels and pulleys, which will all be replaced as part of the restoration. And project photographer, Cozmic Dave, was on hand to record it all for posterity.
Once the bells are stripped and the carillon mechanism safely stored away, we will be able to open the hatches and start to lower the bells. We’re not sure when this will take place but we hope to have most of them down in time to invite the pupils of Newnham School to come to the church on Monday morning. This is a once in a life time opportunity to see the church bells close up. Ian Hasman will hoist one of the bells high enough off the ground for the children to be able to strike it with a rubber hammer. And the top class will explore the bells further with a worksheet provided by Newnham bell ringers.
Once the bells are out, another group of workmen will move in to install a raised ringing floor in the tower, which will give future bell ringers a much easier time. The contract for this has gone to Fieldhouse Builders, based in Blakeney. Meanwhile, a foundry in Holland is casting the three new bells which will replace the current 6th, 7th and 8th. They should be ready by the end of the month and will be transferred to Nicholson’s Bridport works.
Because of all this activity, the familiar sounds of the clock striking and the carillon playing its tunes will be silent until the bells are reinstalled. We anticipate this will be early in November. At the same time the church clock has been stopped, because the mechanism for driving the hands is attached to the frame, which will be in Bridport.
If you need more information about the project please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the project committee.
Cam Dickie, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org 01594 516332
Rev Dr Rob James, Vicar, email@example.com 01594 516671
Mike Bacon, Treasurer, firstname.lastname@example.org 01594 516508
Alan Curtis, email@example.com 01594 516716
Jane Curtis, Tower Captain, firstname.lastname@example.org 01594 516716
Andy Vivian, Tower Correspondent, email@example.com 01594 516528