We are delighted to report that the building work at the back of the nave has now been completed. The builder’s boards came down in time for the big Remembrance Day service on 11th November, which marked the centenary of the Armistice which ended the First World War.
The above photograph, (all photos by Cozmic Dave Photography) shows the new spiral staircase leading to a gallery with a bird’s eye view over the nave. The gallery provides access through a glass door to the new floor in the tower, which is where in future the bell ringers will stand, to ring the bells. Raising the level of the ringers means that the ropes can be shorter which will make ringing easier.
The works have been given a warm reception by all those who have visited the church. Rev’d Rob James, said, “When the builder’s boards came down and we could see the spiral stairs and gallery properly for the first time I just thought, “Wow!” It looks very modern and yet fits in well with our Victorian nave.”
Across the glass screen which separates the nave from the ringing room are the words, “Celebrating 1000 years of Newnham Parish 1018 – 2018”. It was during research for the project that it was discovered the first priest appointed in Newnham took up his post 1000 years ago.
Appeal chair, Cameron Dickie, said, “We are delighted with the way that architect, Ruth Nicholl’s, design has come out. And Fieldhouse Builders, our main contractor, have done us proud. We were hoping for a piece of architectural heritage of which Newnham could be proud and I think that is what we have.”
Bev Bowles, a churchwarden at St Peter’s added, “Apart from the beautiful new staircase and gallery, one of the unexpected benefits is the amount of light that floods into the church from the West window, which was previously obscured. I’m also looking forward to hearing the bells ringing out over the village once again.”
The panelled ringing room is set to become a class room for the next generation of Newnham ringers. Wiring is already in place to install a bell simulation system so that learners can practice bell handling with the bells silent. There will also be a camera in the belfry so that, with CCTV, learners can see what is happening up above as the ropes are pulled.
So where are the bells?
Work on restoring the bells and their frame continues at Nicholson Engineering’s Bridport works. The bells have already been re-tuned and the old 6th, 7th and 8th bells have been replaced by three much lighter, newly cast bells.
Project coordinator, Andy Vivian: “Unfortunately, holdups at the bell foundry and at Nicholson’s yard have interfered with the scheduled return of the bells. Work which we hoped to see carried out in September is only now starting. This includes repairs to the frame, and the adjustment of all 21 carillon and clock hammers so they fit the narrower diameter of our bells.
The return of the bells is now scheduled for the New Year. A team of a dozen volunteers is standing by to assist with the reinstallation. It is hoped the bells and chimes will ring out once more sometime in February. The rededication of the bells should take place in the early spring.”