THE NASSINGTON CHURCH BELLS RESTORATION PROJECT
The bells at Nassington Church have been rung since 1552, and until August 2016 had a ring of 5 bells. The bell frame is a composite structure incorporating cast iron. The Quinquennial inspection in 2012 identified that the church was in a generally good condition, but major work was required to the bell frame, which is rusting, see below, and other work to the bells.
The remedial work to the frame and the augmentation of the ring, was undertaken by John Taylor and Co of Loughborough, at a cost of £70,000 funded from grants and donations. Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Peterborough Guild of Bellringers, Nassington Parish Council, Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust and the Sharpe Trust, plus very generous donations, this project started in 2016. It included a number of events to celebrate the current installation, such as ringing some quarter peals and “ringing out the bells” on Saturday 13th August 2016, for anyone who has ever rung the existing 5 bells over the years or would have liked to.
The new treble bell was funded by the Teall family, in memory of their parents Dennis and Joan, who lived in the village for many years, and bellr ringers and the PCC are very grateful for their contribution. In recognition of this generous donation, the PCC has agreed that the new bell will be called the Teall Treble. This bell was cast on 26th May 2016, see below. The recasting of two of the existing bells took place on 15th September 2016, watched by a class of children from Nassignton School and a number of local people, see below.
Nassington Church hosted a Benefice Service on 26 February 2017, where the Rt Rev Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough, formally dedicated the bells. For this service we were joined by key donors, grant givers and a representative from Taylor's Foundry.
CASTING THE TEALL TREBLE, MAY 2016
The Teall Treble was cast at the Loughborough Foundry on 26 May 2016. A group of 25 people visited the foundry for a very interesting tour and to watch the casting, including members of the Teall family, bellringers and their families. Prior to the casting, the Rev Michael Matthews blessed the bell.
Straight from the mould before fettling - it's another fine casting.
DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Dave Brown is one of our new bell ringers and has taken some interesting photographs of our bells before they are removed, as part of an interesting exercise to demonstrate that archaeologists do more than dig! Please see his blog below.
REMOVING THE BELLS AND FRAME, AUGUST 2016
Monday 15 August 2016
At long last, after all the work on developing the project, the fundraising and the last rings on 5 bells over the weekend, the morning of 15 August 2016 arrived surprisingly quickly. The volunteers arrived, and when Andrew Ogden, the bell hanger from Taylor’s of Loughborough, arrived it was full steam ahead in taking down the bells and frame, using the Heritage Lottery Fund sign as a barrier to stop visitors walking under where they were working.
The first action was to take off the ropes, and then Andrew and the volunteers were in the tower, removing clappers, stays, etc. and then removing the bells from the frame.
The phone call at 5pm surprised, as the message was “… a bell is on its way down”. A rush to the church to see the historic moment when the first bell, the No 3, was slowly lowered by a chain pulley through the hatch and gently onto the floor of the ringing chamber. Looking at it as it came down, we could see how badly damaged the rim was. In the past, bells were tuned by hacking pieces of metal off the bell, and we could see why this bell needs to be recast.
Tuesday 16 August 2016
On to day 2, and another phone call at 10.45am to say the next bell was on its way down. A quick email out to the village to tell everyone, plus collecting a few people on the way, and we had a small audience to see the No 2 bell lowered.
As another bell was to be lowered before lunch, a large group of people stayed around chatting and drinking coffee. By 12.30pm, the Treble had joined the other two bells on the floor. Parts of the frame started to be lowered and the cast iron H frames look in good condition, just needing a clean and paint. The team found the chalk initials of Raymond Sewter, from 1993, when he last painted the frames.
In the afternoon, it was the Tenor coming down, and again we had an audience, including John Wilson, who had rung in Nassington Church for over 60 years. He used to ring the Tenor most of the time, so it was a lovely opportunity for him to reminisce.
But it wouldn’t fit through the hatch! A lot of discussion, removal of parts of the hatch and measuring followed, then it was hauled back up, to be turned onto its side. This time, with a few centimeters to spare, it came safely through the hatch and rested gently on the floor. It then had to be put upright and moved into position alongside the other bells.
Wednesday 17 August
Extra hands today, and the final bell was down by 11am, this time the No 4. Now all the bells were together in the ringing chamber, and we could see that they are generally in good condition, but need a clean and tuning.
Loud noise from the tower, spreading across the village, as they started to remove the steel girders (the bell frame sits on these) from the walls, as they had to dig out the concrete and saw them in half to get them loose, before lowering them to the ground floor. Some looked OK, but there were very large holes in many of the frames. One had a big hole in it near where the H frame would have sat. If that had gone all the way through, the bell frame would no longer have been supported, which demonstrates why we are doing this work!
Thursday 18 August
A message was sent out to the village to come and see the bells, so we had lots of visitors during the day, including a number of children, many of whom had listened to Brian’s talks a the school. They were amazed to see the size of the bells. As a guide, we were saying that the Treble was 3 times the weight of their mother and the Tenor about 6 times the weight of their father! This went down very well. There was a great deal of interest in how bells ring and what the project was about, so the display in church was very useful in explaining the project.
Lots more grinding and banging from the Tower, with the all the frame and girders being lowered to the ringing chamber by the end of the day, much quicker than Andrew had anticipated, see picture below of the H frames and wheels.
Friday 19 August
The lorry arrived at 9am, and by 9.15am, the first bell was on a trolley being wheeled out of the church across the grass, to be loaded onto it. This caused a lot of interest from villagers and from cars driving past. It took about an hour for all the bells to be gradually carried across the churchyard, hoisted onto the lorry and then securely tied on. As they were taken across we were able to confirm the inscriptions on the bells. Some of the smaller elements such as clappers and stays were put between the bells for security.
Gradually the frame was taken to the lorry. Some of the H frames were too wide to go through the door, so had to be taken through on their side, with everyone holding on tight.
Suddenly at 11.30am, the ringing chamber was clear, as everything was on the lorry, which left at 12 noon, for its journey to the foundry.
A big tidy up in the bell chamber, followed, with a final clear up in the church, and the work finished by about 2pm.
Standing in church afterwards, when it was quiet and tidy again, it did feel as if there was a different atmosphere, something missing, as if the building was waiting for the bells to return.
On Sunday morning, so many people said how much they missed the sound of the bells welcoming them to church, and it certainly felt very odd not to be ringing for service. We will patiently wait for the bells to be returned.
The story continues …
VISIT TO THE FOUNDRY 15 SEPTEMBER 2016
On 15 September 2016 we returned to Taylor’s Foundry, this time to see two of our existing bells recast. There were 3 bells to be cast on the day, two for Nassington and one for another church, so the proposal was to cast one bell, the Nassington no 4, before lunch, then have a tour and see the other 2 bells cast in the afternoon.
At this visit, we were accompanied by 21 children from Nassington School, their teachers and 12 adults, as well as by our new priest, Rev Jane Tailby (on the day after she moved into the Vicarage) who said prayers before each casting.
The school children left from the school at 10.20am and arrived in Loughborough just before 12 noon and they could hear the sound of the furnace heating the bell metal. The cast wasn’t quite ready when the children arrived, so they had a brief introduction to what they would see before going into the Bell Museum to see some ancient bells.
A shout came that the bell metal was hot enough, so everyone climbed the spiral staircase to the viewing platform, which overlooked the foundry floor. The furnace was glowing. Then suddenly it was quiet, and the bright metal was poured into a big metal bucket, with lots of sparks.
It was transferred across the floor to the mould, which was sitting in the ground covered in sand with only the top showing. Before the metal was poured, Rev Jane Tailby said prayers for the people involved and for those who will ring the bell in the future.The metal was poured slowly into the mould to cast the bell. This will take a couple of days to cool down, before the mould is broken open to reveal the new bell.
|After lunch the children were taken on a tour of the workshop, where the new frame for our bells was being constructed, and the new Teall treble was sitting.|
They were particularly interested in the tuning area, where we saw a peal of 15 bells being tuned. The insides of the bells were a beautiful bronze colour, and when struck, they made a lovely sound. Lets hope our peal of 6 bells sound as good, when they are tuned.
Then it was up into the Tower, and every child had a chance to ring a bell with help from the Museum guides. The teachers and Rev Jane Tailby had a go too. The bell ringers in the group took the opportunity to ring the bells and show the children how it was done.
It was lovely to see how interested the children were in the casting and in the visit around the foundry. As there had been a delay, they left before the second casting as they had to get back to Nassington, but the adults stayed to see it, before leaving at the end of the afternoon.
Normally when bells are being recast, they are broken up and used, with new bell metal, to create new bells. The Foundry Museum felt that the inscriptions on both bells were interesting historically, so wanted to keep them for posterity. Thus this part of each bell had been retained in the Museum. The rest of the bell metal was used in the recasting with the original inscriptions copied onto the new bells, and new inscriptions added.
THE BELLS RETURN
The bells returned to Nassington on 20 October 2016, a month earlier than expected. There was great excitement as the lorry arrived and we could see the bells, both new and refurbished, gleaming in the sun. Gradually the bells and frame were lifted off the vehicle and across the grass into the church.
Initially the bells were placed in a line along the main aisle and then they were moved to the font. The class from Nassington School, who watched the bells cast, visited the church on Friday morning to see the bells and frame. Over the weekend we were delighted to host many visitors to the church to see the bells and hear an explanation of the work being undertaken. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see bells on the ground.
On Sunday 23 October 2016, Rev Jane Tailby and Bishop John Flack led a service of Hallowing of the Bells, in effect a baptism of the bells, attended by both the normal congregation and the Teall family, Bell ringers and the Sunday School.
INSTALLING THE FRAME AND BELLS
The new steel frame was set into new holes made in the walls of the Tower, and the bells were taken up into the Tower, ready for hanging. Over two weeks each bell was attached to the refurbished H frames, which sit on the grid of new steel, providing the main support to the installation. The wheels, stays etc, which allow the bells to be rung, were attached. Ronnie spent a day ensuring that each of the nuts and bolts were tight. The Teall Treble is set on its frame with the wheel, just waiting for the rope to be attached before it can be rung for the first time.
It was then down to the fiddly bits - making sure each bell would ring smoothly in its frame, and Steve made all the necessary adjustments. David Teall and Dave Brown started attaching ropes, with Hilary checking the length for ringing by the “shorter ringers”. Suddenly there were six ropes not five! Over the afternoon, starting with the Teall Treble by David Teall, we rang each bell up and set it at backstroke to test the length of the tail. Oh, they do sound lovely. We can’t wait to ring them in peal, but Steve says it’s another week, to allow the concrete to set fully in the walls. Steve carried on doing adjustments and fitting the mesh to the openings in the Tower to stop the wind and rain.
A week later and Brian organised a band for a test ring. David and Pat Teall were able to ring the new Teall Treble for the first time, with other Nassington Bell ringers who were available, plus Steve, ringing six bells. We did some plain hunt, some Queens and Bob Minor, before trying a touch of Grandsire. The striking wasn’t brilliant to start with, as the ropes felt very springy, but the improvement in the sound was amazing. Even the Tenor has a beautiful tone. A further recording was made, so we can compare the sound of the bells now with the recording made in July 2016.
The first proper ring on the new bells was for service on Sunday 20 November 2016, followed by a very well attended practice on the following Monday. Everyone felt it was special to be back in our own Tower and the comments from the Village have been very positive about the improved sound, as it is much mellower. Now we’ve just got to get those 6 bell methods right!
Many thanks to Andrew O, Steve and Andrew M, the bell hangers, and to the volunteers, Alex Dyer, Chris Burgess, Gavin Simpson, Ronnie Fraser, Phil McCrone, Dave Brown, Nick Elks and Terry Wright for all their hard work. Ronnie said later in an email, "It was hard work, but very rewarding. To be involved with a project of this scale is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am thankful for that chance."
After the augmentation in 2016, the six bells are:
Bell Weight Note Date Founder
1 3-2-5 E 2016 John Taylor & Co, of Loughborough
2 3-3-2 D 1874 John Warner & Sons, of London
3 5-0-19 C 1754 Joseph Eayre, of St Neots
4 6-1-2 B 2016 John Taylor & Co, of Loughborough
5 7-0-24 A 2016 John Taylor & Co, of Loughborough
6 9-2-4 G 1801 Thomas Osborn of Downham Market
The inscriptions on the bells are as follows:
1 The Teall Treble. Given in loving memory of Eleanor Joan Teall and Dennis Gordon Teall by their children David, Maryon,
Christine and Richard
NON CLAMOR SED AMOR PSALLIT IN AURE DEI translated as “It is not loudness but love that sings in the ear of God”
2 Cast by John Warner & Sons London 1874
3 Omnia Fiant Ad Gloriam Dei J. Eayre Fecit T Neve Prebend. L Male. T Hanson C.W (churchwards) 1747 – 1757
4 Yeates Thacker CW Toby Norris made me 1686 XW
Hilary Hardie Churchwarden Brian Hardie Tower Captain Recast 2016
5 Thomas Norris made me 1642
Thanks to the generosity of Nassington Villagers Recast 2016
6 Edw Handson Rob Osborn Churchwardens Thos Osborn Fecit Downham Norfolk 1801
Once the bells were installed, we then had Andrew Mills from Taylor's arrive to build the new floor above the bells to ensure that rain doesn't corrode our new installation. That just left the new access ladders to be made and installed in 2017.
The first quarter peal on the augmented ring took place on Friday 20 January 2017 with David Teall ringing the Teall Treble. A recording here of part of the QP allows us to compare the sound now with that before the augmentation and retuning.