Work begins – how the first fortnight went

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The bells and all their fittings in the back of the church

This photo shows almost the entire content of the bell chamber dismantled, lowered and stored ready for transit.  There are bells, wheels, chime hammers, frame sides, and much besides.  You can follow the progress of the first fortnight in our photo gallery.

Nicholson’s bellhanger, Ian Hasman, led our team of volunteers over the fortnight with great good humour and consummate skill.  Afterwards he told us it was the most difficult job he’d every done.  Two reasons…..The first is that our belfry not only houses bells but each bell can be made to sound in four different ways.  First there is the normal bell ringing method of turning the bell with a rope and wheel, when the sound comes from the strike of the clapper.  Second, there is the clock which controls hammers on the side of five of the bells for striking the hour and the quarter hours.    Third is the musical carillon which plays tunes on the bells with the use of a further sixteen hammers which operate on the side of the bells.  Finally, there is an Ellacombe apparatus which consists of 8 hammer balls which strike the inner surface of our bells from underneath and which are controlled manually through ropes which descend to the ground floor of the tower where they live in the Ellacombe cupboard.  The upshot is a huge amount of extra apparatus in the belfry which had to be numbered and removed along with the bells.

The second reason this first stage was so difficult was that the Victorian cast iron frame, which had to come out for restoration, had seized up with corrosion in a number of places.  As if this weren’t enough the frame fitted so snugly into the tower that there were only 10cm between the frame and the wall, giving very little room to insert a spanner or manoeuvre the frame sides to get them out.  Twice we spent up to two hours trying free a single joint.  In the worst case we had to end up cutting a frame leg.  Thankfully our bellhangers have the staff and facilities to recast the leg.

So it was with some relief that we finally dragged the content of the bell chamber to the lych gate for loading onto the lorry that would take it all to the Nicholson depot in Bridport.  We had a few worried moments as John, the driver, asked us to estimate the weight of the frame.  He did an incredible job of fitting it all on safely.  We think the 7.5 tonne lorry was close to its limit as it set off.

Huge thanks go to the team of six volunteers who helped Ian Hasman with the dismantling.  They are David Hill, Rob James, Joe Knight, Bruce Leigh, John Simms and David Sollis.  The job which was expected to take seven days, in the end took ten, and many of those went on late into the evening.  And a special thank you to Ian himself, whose determination inspired is all.

Thanks too to Cozmic Dave who spent days alongside the team, photographing each stage for posterity.  He has volunteered to document the project and he took most of the photos in the photogallery.  You’ll find a link to his website there should you wish to purchase any of his photos.  The photographic gaps were filled in with photos from Graham and Sandy Champken and Andy Vivian, to whom we are also grateful.



About newnhambells

I am Chair of the Newnham Bells Restoration Group, which is launching an appeal to guarantee the future of bell ringing in this village, which is rich in history, beauty and tradition.
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