Diary of a DAC Bell Advisor
18th Oct 2014
Drove to Titchwell St Mary for an 8a.m. appointment with Churchwarden Jamie in response to an email via Diocesan House…….. “The bell is rung extremely infrequently. Firstly it's so difficult to move the thing; there must be something wrong with the gearing. The bell rope is wearing badly where it passes through wooden floors in the tower - the rope should now be replaced (not convinced it would repair). Is there somewhere we can go for non-commercial advice?”
(mid C18th. founder unknown)
The Clapper with its buskboard hanging worked surprisingly well.
The spire is supported on
"cast iron" Victorian Engineering
So that is what a spire looks like from inside.........well this one
All sorted by 9.00am. No real problem except a frayed rope and a lack of technique in swing chiming. Jamie happy to splice new rope onto the old sally and slightly enlarge hole in belfry floor so there is no further chafing. He quickly mastered the proper effortless way of swing chiming. Then given a quick tour of the church and away to be at:
Castle Acre for 10a.m. for a Belfry check on the best 6 in the county (after Ryburgh that is) rehung in a new frame in 1952.
The magnificent old 3 pit double scissorbrace frame with its
foundation beams now in a very delicate state.
There is no resident band and a visiting ringer enquired as “to whether a stay was broken also whether the ropes need any adjustment? Bad news here. The belfry‘s had the pigeons in and the floor is littered with nesting material and 3 corpses…as for the bells……..you could say the icing on the cake. except, it’s not icing, it’s disgusting!
Notice to steeplekeepers everywhere:
This happens in the best of belfries
within a very short space of
time after the birds get in.
The old 3 bell frame (a.k.a.the roost) is up in the old belfry above the present bells. What a magnificent structure and in such a fragile state in the places where it matters! I couldn’t see an obvious place where the birds have come in and in consequence, it’s probably harder to get out. I was able to do sufficient in the conditions to know that nothing appeared broken and all seems safe enough to ring and yes the ropes do need adjusting ……but not today in all that …….! To be followed up with a report and photographs which the Churchwarden Anne asked to be robust ……..and it will be.
By then it lunchtime ……it’s a good job that home is on the way to the next call which is Honing St Peter & St Paul. on the other side of the County. Fabric Officer Tony hadn’t received my email confirming the 2.30 appointment but a quick phone call soon brought him to the church. This was another DAC referral “the parish is concerned about the state of their bell frame and one remaining bell. Would you be able to visit and offer them some advice?”
Trusty camera finally packed up so pleased I had my new one.........am going to have to work out how to get rid of those dates and times!
Homework told me to expect a single Thomas Newman bell 1730 the sole survivor of a complete Newman ring of 5 and so probably sitting in a frame large enough to take all 5.
And so it was... a really impressive “hollow square” frame of the type at Brisley except that it has what looks an extraordinary set of interlocking foundation beams and the remnants of the adaptation to hold the 5th bell in the central “hollow”space. Yes it’s suffered the ravages of probably 600 years of belfry weather and dining insects but compared to the Castle Acre frame this was in a superb state and I could just about get far enough away to get some reasonable photos.
The floor boarding walkway around the perimeter outside the frame structure, more than a tad dodgy in places and that would seem to be the priority frame-wise. Main floor supports plentiful and in good and some recent repair.
The bell hung dead on a modern deadstock (guess 1950’s) with Ellacombe chiming hammer. Clapper missing crown staple looks ok.
Strapwork possibly reused C18th. one cannon broken so only supported at three points.. not in imminent danger of failure but probably better addressed sooner rather than later. Full report to be made to follow.
Then to tea with Tony at Crostwight but no camera at all this time and a bonus look round Crostwight All Saints with its simple rood screen with delightful carvings (but all paint gone from panels), wall paintings uncovered mid C19th. and fading in Churchwarden's time in the village. And of course a quick ring of the bell, the eponymous heroine of the so called “Crostwight group” of bells from the C15th. These are exceptionally fine castings with distinctive “black letter” inscriptions. And to end with, as if they had known of my recent research interest, the tale (passed churchwarden to churchwarden) of the Plague pit beyond the East end of the Chancel, inadvertently breached by Conscientious Objectors digging in the Churchyard in WW1 and contracting the Plague as a result. Must check the Apocrypha when I get back or at least ask my friend Tony the paeleopathologist.
copyright Peter Trent 2016