DIARIES OF AN AMATEUR BELLHANGER 1992

- or -
How to Lower a 3cwt Headstock Down a Spiral Staircase
Without Squashing Your Foot


October 1990: Bellfounders inspect our ten bells. After 55 years and about five million revolutions each, the bearings need work at the bellfoundry to be in good order for another trouble-free fifty years. About 1200 per bell, but only half that if the bellringers do the site work and deliver headstocks and fittings to the foundry.

1991: Fundraising, and yes we will do the work ourselves. We agree with the Finance Committee the necessary contribution from the bellringers and from other church funds.

September 1991: Practice on some bolts shows that they still unscrew despite 50 years open to the elements, thankfully unlike the two replaced earlier that each needed an hour's persuasion with a hacksaw. 

October 1991: Enough money for two bells. 'Volunteers' are available, lifting gear is available, but bellfoundry is overwhelmed with work. False start, no time to complete before Christmas.

January 1992: Silver Lining is more preparation time to open the trapdoor in the ringing chamber ceiling allowing the headstocks to be lowered more easily. Pity about the steel ties installed six inches above the trapdoor in the 1950s. Off with the hinges to give two flaps that can usually be slid aside without plummeting to the floor fifteen feet below.

Pity, too, about the 1934-vintage bags of straw nailed on the floor as sound insulation. Tinder-dry and (cough splutter) a trifle dusty. The tower louvres are open to the atmosphere to let the sound out, but also let the dust of Sheffield in. 100 bin-liners full for the tip.

January 1992: Now enough money for three bells. Book the bellfoundry and helpers for 22 February. "Ah! there's a wedding with bells that day". Delay planned start to 11:30.

18 February 1992: Last-minute hiccough with the insurance men: worth a whole diary on its own, but heroic efforts by churchwardens and bellfoundry sort them out with six hours to spare before the weekend work starts.

22 February 1992, 10:30: "Will you still be able to do an exhibition of the work in the back of the church tomorrow?". 
12:15: "The lifting gear (or its expertise at least) is in an airport lounge in Dublin".

INTERLUDE FOR WORK

19:30: "What do you mean, you've locked the church and belfry keys in the ringing chamber. How do we get out?"
24:30 (?): Complete writing on poster for the exhibition with photographs of the work (thanks to Messrs Boot)

23 February 1992: Exhibition with wheels ropes headstocks pulleys, books and posters in place.

And for those who really want to know how those headstocks came down that spiral staircase, there are seven more bells to do over the next two years and willing volunteers only need a spanner and a head for heights. The three at the bellfoundry will be back in April: until then we will ring on six bells. 

Peter Scott Feb 1992

 


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