The best laid plans….

The Newnham Bells Restoration Project has been delayed.  The set-back is due to an issue with the sub-frame, (below)


Photo showing 3 of the 4 steel beams which make up the sub-frame – looking north

Here’s the background…

For 115 years the bell frame has sat on the floor of the belfry which in turn was held up by a sub-frame of four steel beams going east to west across the tower. Over the years the floor became rotten which allowed the frame to rock. So Andrew Nicholson, our contractor, proposed that in future the frame should sit directly on the four steel beams and the floor should be re-laid on the lower flanges of the beams, (as in the photo above).  Everyone agreed this is a good idea, including our structural engineers, Ward Cole Limited.

But it hasn’t quite worked out as anticipated…The frame lined up beautifully with the two middle steel beams but the outer beams, to north and south, lie just short of the north and south sides of the bell frame, (see diagram below).  It was only when the floor was taken up that our contractor became aware of the discrepancy. We could revert to the old system and replace the floor, but this would leave the installation vulnerable to the wood going rotten again.

Committee 132 Bell chamber plan at frame foot

The better solution is to build a second sub-frame of seven girders which will lie over the existing sub-frame and under the bell frame. This is not as unusual as it sounds, since most modern bell installations are designed with this kind of ‘secondary grillage’, as it is called, in place.

This week we have obtained a faculty from the Gloucester Diocese to install this grillage. Our contractor will now order the steel, have it galvanised, fabricate the grillage and finally bring it back here to install.

Currently work in the belfry has come to a halt.  We think it could be at least another month before the secondary grillage is in place and we can bring the bells and frame back to Newnham.

While disappointing, we feel it is important to get the job right. The hard fact is that a secondary grillage would always have been necessary, it is just that we only realised it last month. Our contractor, Andrew Nicholson, has agreed to do the extra work at no profit to himself.

Ours is one of the first cast iron frames that Whitechapel bell foundry made. It is made up of nearly 20 sections. The extra time in the workshop will be used to ensure that we give it the best anti-rust treatment available.


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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