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….. Continue reading

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Good news from the National Lottery

Meanwhile children from Newnham primary school get up close to the bells

Photo 45 Year 5 and part yr 6 with 3 bells

Children in Newnham have been enjoying a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and touch the church bells of their parish church. That’s because instead of being out of reach in the belfry half of them are down on the floor of the church.

Work started on the £155,000 bells restoration project at St Peter’s last week. At the same time, the parish announced that the project had secured National Lottery funding of £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This funding, raised by National Lottery players, will enable the full restoration of the bells and bell frame, as well as a programme of heritage learning and engagement activities.

On Monday 9th June, nearly a hundred pupils from St Peter’s School, Newnham, heard from bellhanger Ian Hasman who gave them a talk about the bells and all the associated paraphernalia brought down from the belfry. After being photographed with the bells, children were invited to strike the tenor bell with a rubber hammer. The top class had a chance to explore the bells and bell ringing further with a series of five activities, including making a rubbing of an inscription on a bell and sketching the different parts of a bell. Continue reading

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We’re off!


                                   From left to right: David Hill, John Simms, Cozmic Dave, Bruce Leigh, Ian Hasman

If you’ve been out and about in Newnham today you’ll have heard occasional dongs and bangs coming from the belfry of St Peters.  That’s because we have finally started work on the restoration of our bells.  And the first task is to do a lot of dismantling so that the bells and frame can be taken away to be refitted and refurbished.  But before we can remove the bells we have to clear a path so that we can lower everything through the three hatchways in the tower to ground level.  This is no simple task, because entangled around the bells is the mechanism for controlling the carillon, whose hammers strike the bells to play seven different tunes.

Our main restoration contract has gone to the Bridport company, Nicholson Engineering.  Their specialist bellhanger, Ian Hasman and Newnham volunteer, Bruce Leigh, have spent the morning labelling and storing over 60 rods which, with the help of roughly 40 levers, transfer the motion of the carillon drum up to the bells above.  The levers and hammers will go away to Bridport for shot blasting.

While that was going on, three other volunteers, John Simms, from Minsterworth, and David Hill and Andy Vivian from Newnham, were removing the fittings from the bells.  These include the stays, sliders, braces, wheels and pulleys, which will all be replaced as part of the restoration.  And project photographer, Cozmic Dave, was on hand to record it all for posterity. Continue reading

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Photo 27 360 degree image of bell frame lower level

After years of planning and fundraising, the long awaited work on the bells of Newnham church is about to start. It was back in 2012 that the parish learned that its eight bells were in such a poor state, that without a major restoration, they would fall silent.
For many years, bell-ringers at St Peter’s, Newnham have struggled to ring the heavy bells, which are hard to control and almost impossible to learn on. Surveys revealed that not only were the bell fittings damaged and worn but that the bell frame was unstable. And the Victorian trend for increasing the weight of the bells had left them too heavy for St Peter’s slender medieval tower.
Andy Vivian, one of Newnham’s bell ringers said: “We’ve been patching up where we could but it is a great relief to know that we can now finally get the bells working properly. We’re adding a new raised ringing floor to help control the bells, recasting three of the bells to make the peal lighter and adding a glass screen to the ringing chamber which will allow more light into the church. Creating a more accessible bell tower, with bells that are easy to ring, will make this an ideal venue for bell-ringing courses and learners.”
The overhaul aims to bring benefits to the whole bell-ringing community. Speaking for the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers, (known as the G&B), their secretary Steve Coleman said, “Our grant to Newnham on Severn is currently the largest we have ever approved because, in our view, the project is so important. The project team’s plans for the future are every bit what we want to see – especially as they intend to make the church a ringing centre for the whole of the Forest of Dean.” Continue reading

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Artist donates charcoal drawing to help bells appeal

Image of Carolyn's Newnham drawing

A large drawing of the River Severn by Newnham artist, Carolyn Black, is to be sold in a sealed-bid auction to raise funds for the St Peter’s Bells Restoration Appeal. This original work of art captures the view as you stand by the cliff edge in the Newnham churchyard looking north.
Cam Dickie, who chairs the appeal, says the drawing is a remarkable achievement. “Wide, panoramic views are notoriously difficult to capture on canvas, but I think Carolyn has found a way to meet the challenge. Because the drawing is so wide, we have to turn our heads to take it in. From the church on the left, our eyes follow the row of houses that sweep down Church Road to the river, then across the wide-open water to the Old Passage Inn on the opposite bank. It really does capture the mood of the estuary at Newnham.”
One of a series of large-scale charcoal drawings that explore the Severn, the Newnham picture is the biggest by far, measuring two metres across. It came about because of some voluntary work that Carolyn did for the bells appeal. “I offered to help set up their website and took some panoramic shots for the front page. Visit the appeal website at, and you’ll discover the original shot which inspired me to undertake this drawing. I want to support the bells appeal and donating the work feels like the right way for me to help.” Continue reading

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Have fun and support the Bell Appeal

Cotswold way picture

Would anyone be interested in taking part in a 10 mile sponsored walk in the Cotswolds?

“The Cotswold Way in a Day” sponsored walk takes place on Sunday June 3rd and is organised by Gloucester Kingsholm Rotarians.  The Way is 100 miles long and you can choose any one of 10 legs on which to do your 10 mile walk.  Walkers choose their own charity and the Newnham Bells Appeal will pay your £10 entry fee if you can raise £150 or more for us.   Want to help another charity as well?  No problem.

Entrants will be asked to arrive with some spare places in their car so that the Rotary Club can organise lift sharing in order to get walkers back from their finishing point.  The Rotary Club provides walk leaders and full safety back-up.

Everyone gathers at the Hatherley Manor hotel near Gloucester, where you can pre-order an optional breakfast before you start. There will be certificates at the end and a Pig Roast supper you can also pre-order.

If this interests you please contact Mike Bacon asap and before the end of April if at all possible. 01594 516508, We need at least four participants to register for this.

Look out for more enjoyable events coming up this summer, including
• The Newnham Live Music Festival in June,
• A Midsummer’s Eve Picnic and Music at Newnham House during the Open Garden’s weekend – June 23rd
• A ‘tour and tea’ at the home and garden of Lady Bathurst our patron – Cirencester Park.  Date to be arranged

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Bells Restoration Update

Photo 26 Church from above cropped

When we launched the Bells Restoration Appeal in January 2016, the target of £150,000 seemed so huge, it was hard to believe we’d ever get there.  As we enter 2018 we have come a long way.  We now have a date for Andrew Nicholson Engineering, the bell hangers, to start work – July 2nd 2018.  If we can keep to this schedule, we anticipate that the bells and frame will be returned to the tower in October this year. Continue reading

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