Last Friday, eighteen of us – volunteers, committee members and partners, travelled to Bridport to visit the Nicholson Engineering workshop where our bells and frame are being restored. The boss, Andrew Nicholson raised our tenor bell on a hoist so that it could be struck and we heard for the first time the ‘dong’ that will mark the passing of each hour in Newnham for at least the next century. The reverberation continued for over a minute!
Nicholson staff were on hand to show us the various skills which bellhanging demands.
Alan Brittan, the blacksmith, explained how to make a forge weld.
Richard Farrant, the wheel maker, explained why a bell stay is designed to break easily.
And after we had all had a good look round, we were given a talk by Andrew about how to maintain our bells and their frame in good condition.
It was a great day out, but unfortunately we also learned some disappointing news. Despite Nicholson’s’ best endeavours, the bells and frame are not after all going to be ready to return to Newnham next week. The bells are missing their clappers and gudgeons (the pins which stick out of the side of the headstock on which the bell is suspended). The headstocks need to be galvanised. And the frame needs a substantial repair to one of its southern legs. A new date of Monday February 25th has been targeted for the return of the bells and frame. Installation of the bells and all the ancillary equipment is expected to take five weeks.
One item of good news
We can reveal that two of our volunteers have offered to share the task of being steeple keepers. They are Steve Bowles and David Hill. Together they will keep the bells and all bell related equipment in good order. We are very grateful to them for taking on the task without which any belfry would soon run into trouble.