So near ... yet so far
Hurrah! The Appeal of Bells has just eased past the half-way mark. That counts only cash at the bank, where we now have a bit over £75,000 out of our target of £150,000. With the £10,000 promised by the Parish Council, plus one or two other rock-solid promises, we are actually closer to £90,000.
And the other good news: we now have a preferred supplier. The Parochial Church Council (PCC) met on 1 March and approved the supplier and therefore also the scope and nature of the project.
John Taylor of Loughborough has been selected, in a very close contest between the last two bidders. Taylor’s is the last remaining bell foundry in England, and they have undertaken major renewals of bells in both St Mary’s in Taunton and St Mary’s in Bridgwater, among other Somerset churches.
The plan is still as it was set out more than two years ago at the start of the appeal: to replace the whole bellframe and to recast all eight bells, recycling the metal from the existing bells.
The precise shape of the bells is critical to how they sound. Taylor’s will use a profile developed by Gillett & Johnston in the early 20th century, which gives a particularly sweet and clear note. Altogether, the new bells will weigh some 17cwt less than the present ones, which will make them easier to ring for younger and older ringers.
The new frame (unlike the existing one) will be firmly fixed to the tower walls to avoid damage to the fabric of the tower as well as the bells. It will be metal throughout. The central wooden beam, which is now over two centuries old, was in such a poor state that it had to be underpinned with cast-iron girders in 1898; and those girders themselves are now corroding. We want the whole installation to be good for the next 200 years or more.
And this is what the new bells will look like (by courtesy of St Mary Magdalene church, Taunton, where John Taylor & Co installed 15 new bells in 2016)
First, though, we need approval from the Diocese, and that process will be under way as you read this. It will take some months, especially if we have to submit a second application with additional details. Taylor’s will then take about nine months to remove the present bells, re-cast them, replace the frame and re-hang the bells. All being well, we may have new bells ringing in late summer or autumn of 2023 – not that far away.
The second proviso, of course, is that we raise the rest of the money. We have started applying for grants, and a full programme of fundraising events has been planned for the rest of this year. Another £50,000 or so is a big ask – but there is nonetheless a little spark of optimism that says this is the home straight, and we shall get there.