from the St Peter & St Paul magazine
North Curry church bells: what’s the problem?
Did you hear the bells being rung the other day? People have asked how and why, if the bells are in such a bad state.
They were being tested and assessed by one of the specialist bell-hanging firms that have been asked to quote for renewing them. How far out of tune are they? Quite a bit. How much does the supporting bellframe move when the bells are rung? Quite a bit. How robust are the bells?
In some cases, not very, as changes to the hanging mechanism over the years have left weak spots, which can fracture. One of the heavy cast-iron clappers works loose from time to time.
The main problem, though, is the frame, which has to carry more than four tons of bells and fittings. The 200-year old oak has cracks; some sections are being eaten by insects; and parts have been weakened where segments have been bolted on or cut away. Metal strengthening bars have deformed, and some metal beams have disturbed the stonework of the tower where rust has made them expand.
If the frame moves too much it could damage the fabric of the tower. If it is stressed too much as the bells are rung, it could give way at one of the weak points. The heaviest bell
(the tenor) weighs more than 16 hundredweight: think of this as 32 bags of cement, and now imagine the strain that this places on the fitments and frame as it swings back and forth.
The different specialists have offered different solutions – which, of course, is one reason for seeking several expert opinions – and we shall now be examining what they have proposed in greater detail before committing to a contract.
We also have to ensure that our plans are acceptable to the diocese, which will need to issue a ‘faculty’ (equivalent to planning permission) before any work can go ahead. Although the church is a listed monument, the bells and the frame are not. That reduces the number of permissions we have to obtain, though not necessarily the time it takes to obtain them.
So it is a gradual process – but it is moving forward. If you enjoyed hearing the bells ring out again recently, please help us to reach our funding target of £150,000.
Would you or your family like to have a bell named after you? Do talk to us about this and other means of supporting the campaign.