We expect to spend up to £155,000 on this project and, astonishingly, a third of this sum has been donated by the residents and friends of Newnham. We think it is amazing that so many care about getting our church bells into proper working order and giving a new generation the chance to learn to ring.
The story so far
The St Peter’s Bells Restoration Project is the biggest undertaking by the church for more than a century. The bells are away being refitted and retuned. Three of them will be replaced by new ones, which are being cast this week. The wobbly bell frame is being cleaned and repaired. If you go into the church you’ll see the most eye-catching part of the project. We are installing a raised ringing platform in the tower nearly twelve feet up with a minstrels’ gallery in the nave to gain access. A spiral staircase will lead up to the gallery. The interior wall of the new floor will be a glass screen so light can flood in from the tower’s west window. You can already see this, through the plastic sheeting.
Join the volunteers
In July, six local volunteers helped to dismantle the entire contents of the belfry. Everything had to be lowered on a two tonne hoist attached to a rafter in the spire. And since the three hatchways in the tower didn’t line up, it was quite a challenge, but an enormous amount of fun. Joe Knight has written it about (See previous blog) and there are pictures on our website gallery.
Could you join us next time? The rehanging of the bells is scheduled to begin on Monday October 15th. We need four more volunteers who can give us at least five working days over the four weeks up to Friday November 16th. Andy Vivian can tell you more. 516528 or email email@example.com
A priestly millennium
In 1018, King Canute (“Knut”) granted the manor of Newnham to the monks of Pershore. He told them to employ a priest to say mass for the sum of 24 shillings a year. The first stone church wasn’t built until the following century, so we think he would have used a wooden chapel, probably on the lower Nab, an area now washed into the river. This piece of history will receive a permanent commemoration as part of the Bells Project. Across the glass screen will be a cross and an inscription which says:
Celebrating 1000 years of Newnham Parish, 1018-2018
See our exhibition in church
The back of the nave is a building site. You can just see the new gallery taking shape through the plastic sheeting. But there’s something else to see. We’ve mounted an exhibition to reveal Newnham’s bell heritage. It tells you about the many curiosities to be found in the church tower, such as the mechanical carillon and the Ellacombe chimes. In researching the exhibition we discovered that the very first Newnham vicar was appointed in 1018, making this year a very special anniversary. Our thanks to Paul Manning for the creation and mounting of the exhibition.
Learn to ring
When the project is complete we will have a tower ideal for learning to ring. The bells will be lighter and better balanced. We’ve acquired teaching aids such as hand bells and a model bell in its frame. To add interest and improve skills we are putting in belfry CCTV and bell simulation software. The new ringing room with its glass screen, overlooking the nave, will be a lovely place to learn. So if the thought of ringing bells has ever entered your head, you’ll not find a better opportunity than here at Newnham later this year. To express an interest, please contact our tower captain, Jane Curtis 01594 516716, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date for your diary
When it is all finished we will have the new bells dedicated by the Bishop of Tewkesbury. This is planned for the evening of Friday 23rd November. We’ll also hold an Open Day around that time to show you the changes and of course there will be ringing to mark the celebration.
Marking the end of World War 1
If ready in time, our bells will join in the National Ring-Out for Peace to mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on November 11th 1918. We’ve paid tribute to the centenary with an inscription on our new treble bell. It will read:
I ring for justice and peace.
In commemoration of the Armistice of 1918