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The 1987 Restoration Project

By the early 1980s the 1895 ring was becoming extremely difficult to handle as well as being odd-struck and unsuitable for teaching young people; it was apparent that some work would have to be done before long. As a first step the Select Vestry were asked to commission an inspection by a representative of the Towers and Belfries Committee of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and Mr. Clarke Walters, M.A.,M.Sc.,M.I.C.E. was invited to look at the bells. His finding confirmed that the mechanics of the bells had reached the end of their useful life, the original oak frame was now loose in the tower and that the bells should be rehung. It was also considered desirable that the bells be retuned and augmented to ten, as this would give a 'light six' suitable for teaching.

At about this time the tower structure was also causing serious concern both as to the safety of the decorative rosettes at the top of the tower and the battlements and the need for complete repointing. This work was regarded as essential and it was therefore decided to restore both the tower and the bells at the same time.

Many schemes were considered in respect of the bells, the simplest being to retune and rehang the old eight bells. In accordance with Mr. Walters' report the ringers' aspirations, the possibility of augmenting the ring to ten was seriously discussed, and it soon became known that a donar would be forthcoming for one of the extra bells.

Investigation revealed that adding two treble bells to the old eight might be difficult on one level in the belfry, as one of the bells might have to be hung above the rest. This, although often done, is not always successful and the alternative of recasting the ring slightly lighter was examined. A number of advantages would flow from this plan: all the bells could be on one level, they would be of superior quality musically since the principle of Simpson tuning had been discovered some time after the old ring was cast in 1895, and although more expensive the extra cost of this action would be largely compensated for by other savings.

The old bells were in the key of E, and therefore sounded just below F in modern pitch; recasting them into a 15cwt ring in F# with octave hum notes instead of sevenths could be expected to give much the same sound as regards pitch.

Careful examination of this plan by the Bell Foundry showed that there would in fact be room on one level, not only for ten bells but for twelve. There would also be enough metal in the old peal for twelve bells at the proposed weight. It was therefore recommended to the Select Vestry that the bells be recast into ten, hung in a frame for twelve, and that the surplus metal be retained against the time in the future when funds would be available to cast the eleventh and twelfth bells. The ringers guaranteed to find donors or funds for the bells above eight.

The Select Vestry accepted this proposal in November 1986, and in December the order for the work was placed with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, who had cast the original ring. Within weeks the ringers has confirmed the donations of the two extra bells making ten. Soon afterwards the Northern District of the Irish Assocation of Bellringers offered to raise the money for a third if this would guarantee a twelve bell ring. This, together with an offer for the fourth extra bell, enabled the Select Vestry to be asked to amend the order on Whitechapel to provide the complete twelve bell ring. This was duly done in March 1987.