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The Bells Rehanging Project
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Rehanging the Church Bells 1983-1985.

The Bells Project Diary

2007 marked 250 years of Bells at St Michael's Winterbourne, and 25 years since the start of the Bells Rehanging Project.
To celebrate this, John Kite delved into the archives and transcribed all the diaries, records, notes and backs of fag-packets that detailed the day-to-day project goings-on to remain as a permanent on-line record of that once-in-a-lifetime DIY project.

The start of the project was serialised in the monthly church magazine as part of the publicity campaign, but petered out after about seven episodes as the project workload increased. The diaries and project notebooks were maintained, however.

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

photocopy of church mag article

The original timescale was very optimistic! Everyone was concerned about raising the money to start the project in April 1983. No one realised that it would be nearly October before the faculty was granted!
original project display

The following sketches were part of a somewhat simplistic presentation to the PCC
original project display original project display original project display original project display

original project display original project display original project display

These PCC minutes record the Project Team's intentions and progress.

photocopy of PCC minutes
extract from PCC Minutes 5th October 1982.

photocopy of PCC minutes
extract from PCC Minutes 5th December 1982.

photocopy of PCC minutes
extract from PCC Minutes 1st February 1983.

photocopy of PCC minutes
extract from PCC Minutes 22nd March 1983.

Diary extracts

3rd Meeting, Monday 24 January 1983 -8pm at the belltower
afterwards at the Royal Oak.
(20 people attended)

4th Meeting,Monday February 21st 1983 - 8pm at the belltower
(Fund raising)
8 people attended


There will be a meeting about the Bells Project in the Tower at 8pm
on Monday 28 March, when a guest speaker will present a short
slide show about a bell rehanging project.

14 July 1984
Another source of rubbish was the walls that had had plaster removed. We found holes in the walls used in the original construction of the tower had been blocked and plastered over.
Part of our plan was to make a feature of these holes, so we unblocked them, hoping to find messages from the past. Other than bird nests, wasp nests, we found nothing, although on removing the blackboard from the walls, was written
"decorated on 4 - 9 September 1972
by S. Holmes and D. Howard"
28 July 1984

As we arrived at the Tower on 28 July 1984, we saw there was a problem, as everyone was waiting outside the tower. The lock resisted all efforts to open it, and as we arrived we each tried our keys in the turn. A wedding party arriving for an early wedding (the bride was Miss Bell - really!) looked on bemused as we tried our American Express cards, metal strips, and screwdrivers. But the lock proved obstinate. The door had been strengthened the previous year after vandals had kicked down the door and caused damage to the ringing chamber.
We finished up gaining entry by battering down the door with a large section of timber. The wedding was able to continue in peace and quiet.
Dennis and John spent the rest of the day rebuilding and strengthening the door and fitting a new lock - an unfortunate waste of manpower.

Chris turned up with an unbelievably large spring balance which with a struggle we managed to manhandle up the belltower and while moving bells 1,2,3 4 out of their wooden frame and standing them on the steelwork, we took the opportunity to weigh them.

Bell 6     21 cwt with headstock
Bell 5     15 cwt - clapper

Bell 4     12 cwt with headstock
Bell 3     10 cwt ¼ + clapper
Bell 2     2 cwt ¾

the unbelievably large spring balance!

What The Papers Said.

newspaper report 1 newspaper report 1a

newspaper report 2

newspaper report 3

The end of the project.

Towards the end of the bells project, Terry, Brenda and Antony Jeffries went to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry with two cracked handbells for repair. During their visit on 27th November they were shown the 1757 records for our bells, and also saw a steel frame under construction for another tower. The frame looked flimsy after ours!

At the beginning of May, 1985, the Project team received this letter of congratulation from Winterbourne Parish Council:
photocopy of letter of congratulations from Winterbourne Parish Council

and the June 1985, Church Magazine featured this colour cover:
laboriously hand-coloured church magazine front cover

and this story about the bells project


We entered the Project into the Avon Village Ventures Award Scheme, hoping to win a large cash prize.
In the end we just got a Runners-up Award of £30 and an honourable mention at Chipping Sodbury Town Hall on 23rd October...
Winterbourne DIY Project.  The Bell Ringers of
St Michaels Church, Winterbourne, defied
expectation and set about rehanging the church 
bells. It was a mammoth task which demanded
an enormous amount of commitment from the team
of ten bell ringers who, without any formal 
training or skills, undertook all the work 
themselves. I don't think many people thought 
they would do it, and they certainly hit the 
headlines in bellringing circles. The project 
also had a number of indirect benefits, 
including a Christmas postal round for the 
village and a fundraising event which raised 
money for the purchase of an approved storage
cabinet for the parish records, to ensure that
the records remained in the village. The
workers also proved to be quite a tourist
attraction, particularly during the summer
which generated interested in the village. A
number of artefacts were found in the bell
tower, which are displayed in the church,
along with photographs of the work before,
after and during.

It is worth noting that one of the preliminary
judges, not unknown to most of you, was too
cowardly to brave the steps to see the work
that has been done - she has never quite lived
it down...                        Editor.