The Bells Rehanging Project
Rehanging the Church Bells 1983-1985.
The Bells Project Diary2007 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.
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!
The following sketches were part of a somewhat simplistic presentation to the PCC
These PCC minutes record the Project Team's intentions and progress.
extract from PCC Minutes 5th October 1982.
extract from PCC Minutes 5th December 1982.
extract from PCC Minutes 1st February 1983.
extract from PCC Minutes 22nd March 1983.
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
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
What The Papers Said.
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:
and the June 1985, Church Magazine featured this colour cover:
and this story about the bells project
PostscriptWe 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.