Meanwhile children from Newnham primary school get up close to the bells
Children in Newnham have been enjoying a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and touch the church bells of their parish church. That’s because instead of being out of reach in the belfry half of them are down on the floor of the church.
Work started on the £155,000 bells restoration project at St Peter’s last week. At the same time, the parish announced that the project had secured National Lottery funding of £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This funding, raised by National Lottery players, will enable the full restoration of the bells and bell frame, as well as a programme of heritage learning and engagement activities.
On Monday 9th June, nearly a hundred pupils from St Peter’s School, Newnham, heard from bellhanger Ian Hasman who gave them a talk about the bells and all the associated paraphernalia brought down from the belfry. After being photographed with the bells, children were invited to strike the tenor bell with a rubber hammer. The top class had a chance to explore the bells and bell ringing further with a series of five activities, including making a rubbing of an inscription on a bell and sketching the different parts of a bell.
The vicar of Newnham, Rev Dr Rob James, expressed his gratitude to the Heritage Lottery Fund: “This grant from the National Lottery is really good news for us, as without it we’d have had to borrow funds to tide us over until we had raised our target. Now we know that are not going run out of cash. We have a couple of fundraising events planned this summer which will ensure that we have enough in our contingency should the restoration run over budget. Any money left in the kitty will go into our bells education fund. We have always made clear that teaching the next generation to ring is as important as restoring the bells themselves.”
The opening stage of the restoration is now well under way. This involves lowering the bells and bell frame through three hatchways in the belfry down to the ground floor of the church. They will now be transported to Bridport where Nicholson Engineering will shot blast and recoat the frame and equip the bells with modern fittings – wheels, headstocks, pulley blocks etc. Much of the dismantling has been done with the help of six local volunteers, who have spent over a week clambering around the tower trying to release rusted bolts that haven’t been moved for 124 years.
Volunteer, Bruce Leigh, said: “Before we could open up the hatchways we had to dismantle over 60 rods which, with the help of roughly 40 levers, transfer the motion of the carillon drum up to the hammers which strike the bells above. As each piece came off it had to be numbered so that we know how to reassemble it all in October.”
The levers and hammers will go away to Bridport for shot blasting. Once the bells are taken away, builders will move in to install a raised ringing platform nearly four metres above the ground floor of the tower.
Jane Curtis, the ringers’ tower captain, said: “Having shorter ropes will make it much easier to control the bells which will be a real advantage when training learners. In fact, the bells in this tower had become so difficult and unsafe to ring that we haven’t been able to train ringers for twenty-five years. We’re all very excited to see the restoration finally started after six years in the planning and fundraising. People in Newnham are often telling us how much they look forward to the regular sound of church bells being rung. It’s part of Newnham which has been missed for many years.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund told us:
“Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported”.
About the project
The volunteers working on the dismantling of the bells are David Hill, Rob James, Joe Knight, Bruce Leigh, John Simms and David Sollis. The project is being photographed by Cozmic Dave.
The project is being run on behalf of Newnham Parochial Church Council by a project committee made up of:
Cam Dickie, Chair, email@example.com 01594 516332
Rev Dr Rob James, Vicar, firstname.lastname@example.org 01594 516671
Mike Bacon, Treasurer, email@example.com 01594 516508
Alan Curtis, firstname.lastname@example.org 01594 516716
Jane Curtis, Tower Captain, email@example.com 01594 516716
Andy Vivian, Tower Correspondent, firstname.lastname@example.org 01594 516528
The main contracts are with Nicholson Engineering of Bridport (Bellhangers) and Fieldhouse Builders of Blakeney (for the raised ringing platform). Sub-contract for casting our three new bells, to replace our three heaviest bells in order to make the peal lighter, has gone to Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry in Holland. The subcontract for the new structural glass screen in front of the raised ringing platform has gone to Ion Glass and for the new spiral staircase the subcontract has gone to British Spirals and Castings.