North Curry Bell appeal
Past, Present & Future
Our Church has been a dominant structure from the top of the hill for
hundreds of years: overlooking the levels and being a symbol to people in
many different ways.
Placed gracefully on top of the building is our beautiful octagonal tower,
supporting eight mighty bells which when rung can be heard for many miles.
Records show that there have been bells at this church as far back as 1586,
calling people to church on a Sunday. Likewise letting people rejoice in couples
getting married and saying farewell to loved ones as they depart this earth.
History shows that bells have also been used as warning systems for thousands
of years: in World War II bells were used to warn people of bombing raids and
also rung out when the war ended.
In 1811 our 6 largest bells came to our tower, then in 1894 they were joined by
the 2 lightest bells we have today. Originally rung from the ground floor – in
the space occupied by the nave altar today – in 1833 the bells were moved
higher up in the tower, allowing what was then the bellchamber to become
today’s ringing chamber. Hence instead of a team of eight ringers getting in
the way of the congregation, they are now hidden away up the spiral staircase
accessed from the door at the foot of the tower.
So North Curry’s bells are a very traditional part of the village. Whilst only
certain of us are regular attenders at church services, the bells are heard by all,
and are an essential part not only of the traditional Sunday, but in particular
too of major celebrations such as Christmas and Easter when the church is at
its fullest. Not just that, but the bells are also used for the church clock
chimes, sounding every quarter day and night. We know indeed that they are
part of people’s lives – when following a problem some months ago the chimes
were stopped for a while, there was general unrest around the village ! Whilst
in this day and age we all have instant ways of knowing what the time is, the
distant chimes of the church clock are a reassuring sound echoing in our
subconscious and somehow giving a sense of permanence: something to be
treasured in this fast moving world.
Regularly used over the years, they have stood the test of time well – a tribute
to our forbears who installed, maintained and rang the bells: particularly
considering the lack of modern equipment, power tools and so on, which we
take for granted today. Like everything though, if used enough, things start to
wear out …
We have been very fortunate over the years, and with good maintenance and
a handy team of steeple keepers our bells have sounded out over the village
and surrounding areas for all of those years. But we have now come to a time
where local skills are not enough to keep the bells ringing.
Over the past 6 months articles have been written for the church magazine to
report to the local community some of the problems which have started to
arise with the bell frame, likewise with the bells themselves, and the various
fixtures which connect the bells with the frame: wheels, headstocks, bearings
and so on. The bell ringers felt that it was only right to let the village know that
problems were increasingly appearing.
The actual frame – the all-important structure which supports the bells – is in
itself a piece of pre-Victorian engineering which has performed its task
brilliantly over more than 200 years. A solid oak structure, it has nonetheless
been weakened over time as new bells have been installed and other
modifications made. Cracks in the wood are evident, and the metal struts
which hold parts of it together are increasingly bent. Furthermore, attached to
it is a smaller metal frame which supports three bells: this was installed about
a hundred years ago when new bells were introduced, and is in itself in need of
renewal. Between them, there is growing anxiety about their ability to support
the four tons of metal up there which the bells represent.
What is more, the frame is not embedded in the tower walls as would be the
case with a modern frame: it simply rests on supporting beams above the
ringing chamber. Additionally it is showing increasing movement, evidenced
by the difficulty in ringing certain lighter bells when the heavy bells are ringing
at the same time. All in all, whilst there have of course always been
maintenance issues to resolve, the frequency of such issues has intensified in
recent months to the extent that firstly the demands are getting beyond the
ability of the local team to respond to them; secondly engendering increasing
health and safety concerns.
SO – we have had a visit from Taylors of Loughborough, bellfounders and
bellhangers. They supply and install bells throughout the world and recently
completed the bell restoration at St Mary’s in Taunton. They undertook a
thorough inspection of our bells now and recommended that a new bell frame
be fitted, submitting a quotation for various options, including casting new
Due to the outbreak of Covid 19, all of our plans had been put on hold whilst we all waited to see how it was going to unfold. There has been a lot of work done behind the scentes though to make sure that we are focused for our campagne.
we are still moving forward and hope to make an announcement very soon.