Bells Ringing Again at Kingskerswell
Wow!! That seems to be the recurring reaction from anyone who has sampled the eight bells at Kingskerswell. Over the last few weeks there has been a flurry of activity as the dedication had been planned before the bells arrived in the village – no pressure, then!!
Whilst the bells were out the builders had worked hard to complete the new ringing floor / balcony. This has massively increased the ringing room area to give a very pleasant room. The stone-work of the re-instated doorway is a superb piece of craftmanship and really fits beautifully into the existing fabric of the church. The room created below this is now a wonderfully fitted out kitchen that any home would be proud of.
An enthusiastic team of volunteers was on hand led by Nicholson's bellhangers, Ian, Tim and Chris who were there at various times to lead the work and make sure that a first class job was done. Once the grillage (substantial girders) was in place and built into the tower it was time to fit the frame and a magnificent day's work saw the whole thing in place and ready for the bells. An eight o'clock start had been booked and the driver delivering the bells was so keen to be on time that he arrived at 6.30am! The bells were then set out at the back of the church ready for a blessing and some of the ringers and volunteers were persuaded to have their photos taken for the Mid Devon Advertiser who then produced an excellent article
The bells were taken up into the tower straight away so that they were safe from damage / theft. Early in the project extra lifting beams had been put in place at the top of the tower. This allowed the bell hangers to place extra hoists at strategic positions so that the heavy bells could be swung into place with the minimum of brute force. The wheels were all made in two halves so that the bottom half could be put in place as the bell was swung into its pit. The running gear (sliders, stays and pulleys) were then fitted followed by the rest of the wheels. Once all the wheels had been fitted it was time to get the clappers in place and make sure they were clappering correctly (i.e. not odd struck). This involved careful measurement and adjustment of "twiddle" pins. Then a final check was made by swinging the bell without the rope and listening to the clapper strike as the bell slowly lowered itself. The position for the rope coming through the wheels was then carefully measured and drilled and "thimbles" placed on the wheels to minimise rope wear. Finally the holes for the ropes were carefully measured and cut in the floors. At last, the ropes were fitted and each bell tested. The new ropes are different, to say the least, and really show that this enthusiastc team is just a little special – and all the better for that!!
Throughout the project the workers were kept well fed and watered by the ringers who were always there at lunchtime to make sure there was plenty to eat and keep the tea pot circulating.
Two try-outs were booked and on each occasion there were plenty of ringers keen to experience the newest ring of 8 in Devon. The job has involved the tuning of the old bells and the casting of three new ones (the old third – fifth of the new ring, was unfit to be tuned). All agree that the result is a triumph of the bell tuners art. Even the most enthusiastic member of the team had to agree that the old bells were at best mediocre. They are now a delight to ring and to listen to.
The Dedication occurred during Advent Eucharist and was led by the Bishop of Plymouth who has long been a good friend to ringers. The bells were rung before and after the service by the local band and friends.
The team at Kingskerswell led by Philip Stevens, has to be congratulated on the concentrated effort over six years to get the bells to this position. The whole team has worked tirelessly but special mention should be made of John Rees who had a vision and has been the project manager throughout – his vision and that of the whole team is now a reality. A few finishing touches are needed such as the clock hammers and a new carpet, but these will be in place in the next few days. This will be followed by gradual tweaking of the sound both internally and externally, but these are small items in a massive project. Our branch now has another fine ring of eight right in the centre of our "patch". Thank you, Kingskerswell!