The 2013 Bere Regis Bell Tower Appeal

Wonderful news!

I am delighted to be able to tell you that we have reached our target!

Since returning from holiday in the last week I have heard that we have been successful with an application that has been in the pipeline for a long time and have been granted an award of £3,000 from the Barron Bell Trust. This is most unexpected (they normally give much less), but it means that our £60,000 original target should now be secure.

I have been contacting individuals and organisations who are currently active in raising funds for the Appeal to let them know, and to say that, though we will not be starting any new initiatives, I would like to continue with the fund-raising efforts currently planned, to give us, hopefully, something in hand.

Any additional contributions will help us with cash flow (grant monies can only be accessed as work is completed but suppliers require progress payments and the VAT man wants his cut before we can recover it from another government department) and to support some extra ideas such as the school "Bells' Heritage" project. Also, as you will imagine, at this stage there is plenty of scope for 'unforeseens' which may only emerge once everything has been taken out of the tower and stripped down.

If we do end up with more money than we need, I envisage it being placed in the church "Fabric Fund", which is there to provide for maintenance of the church buildings, equipment, furniture and infrastructure. The next architect led Quinquennial Inspection of all these items is due in 2015 and it is to be expected that some work will inevitably be recommended.

Several people have asked me - "If there is money left over, are you going to re-instate the clock chimes - the quarter hours?" - either because they like the idea or because they have a concern about the possibility of the chimes going on throughout the night.

The answer is no - not as part of this refurbishment project.

We have been thinking about it for the future once we have finished the bells refurbishment, but it could not be undertaken without a separate project to be approved by the PCC and would require a new Faculty from the Diocese and approval from the central Church Buildings Council. If it is eventually put forward it would include automatic mechanisms for stopping chiming and striking throughout the night-time hours. These are expensive to buy and to install and so there would likely need to be a separate fund raising. During our current project, the linkages and hammers for chiming have to be left in place in the belfry (we have undertaken to do so for conservation) so that it would be possible for it to happen in the future, and yes, these will be refurbished at this time together with all the other belfry equipment.

I hope that this update is helpful. Please don't hesitate to email me if you have any questions or comments. I am attaching a copy of the update included in the latest edition of the Parish Magazine which sets out the overall position, though written before hearing about the latest grant award.

Finally, thank you all for your help, contributions, enthusiasm and support for the project. With a following wind, what we are setting out to do could last for 200 years - we don't get too many opportunities like that these days!

Jon Cleave

March 2014

 

You can see the Appeal, as it was when first launched below -

The Appeal

The bells of St. John the Baptist Church Bere Regis have rung out for over 500 years. Now they need a major overhaul which will cost £60,000.

Our Bell Tower was paid for by Cardinal Morton in 1500 and originally built to contain 4 bells. A fifth was added in 1609 and a sixthin 1920. At that time, the old wooden bell-frame was replaced by a steel frame, the bells were lowered, repaired and re-hung together with servicing and replacement of all the ringing mechanisms. Since 1920 the bells have been in constant service, with routine maintenance being carried out by successive steeple-keepers. The time has now come for a major overhaul to ensure that the ring of bells remains serviceable and safe for another hundred years and to bring it up to modern standards.

What the refurbishment Project does


1) Deals with the wear and tear accumulated over the 94 years since the last major overhaul and ensures that the bells remain safe to ring

2) Conserves the bell-frame and the bells and minimises the danger of the bells developing cracks in the future

3) Provides for the ring of 6 bells to be brought back into tune

How it will be done?

Ancient trapdoors in the bell tower will be opened up. Temporary lifting gear will be installed in the top of the bell tower.

Each bell will be carefully lifted from its mountings and lowered to the foot of the tower. The largest bell weighs 948 Kg and the smallest weighs 341 Kg

All the bells will be transported by road to the workshops of John Taylor & Co. in Loughborough, who are our chosen specialists. The combined weight of all 6 bells is 3.5 metric tonnes.

Each bell will have the remains of old iron fittings that they used to hang from carefully removed. When iron rusts it expands and this can cause cracking of the bell metal which is bronze, an alloy of copper & tin, chosen to give resonance.

The places where the old iron fittings have been removed will be welded up by the company “Soundweld” who are specialists in welding of bell metal. They use a Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) process with a specially cast filler metal. Wear and tear caused by the clappers striking the bells over the centuries will also be corrected by this type of welding.

The plain bearings and gudgeons on which the bells swing are worn. They will be replaced with new turned steel gudgeons and modern ball bearings mounted in new cast iron housings. This will make it considerably easier to swing the bells in future – something the bellringers are looking forward to!

The wrought iron clappers, which strike the bells, will all undergo repair or replacement. Several of them have broken and been welded up already.

All the “running gear” that transmits the efforts of the bellringers to the bells – the ropes, pulleys and the big wooden wheels that apply the leverage – will be repaired, renovated or replaced as necessary.

Then, subject to approval by conservation authorities, the repaired and renovated bells will be retuned. Whilst they are not badly out of tune, some correction is desirable for 4 of the bells. This will be done by mounting the bells individually in a type of giant lathe, which allows a very small amount of metal to be skimmed from the inside of the bell.

Whilst the bells are away from the tower, the steel bellframe will be cleaned down, anti-corrosion measures applied & then re-painted. It sounds straightforward but this will be a long and messy job.

The refurbished bells and fittings will be transported back to Bere Regis and hoisted back into place. Then they will be tested before a ceremony to mark their return.


What it will Cost?

Our current estimate is that the whole project will cost £60,000


When will it be done?

We have first to raise the money! To date we have raised £7,699 so we have made a great start but there is a long way to go. Our timetable is for 6 months of intensive fundraising, locally in the parish and by applying for grants regionally and nationally.

We hope to be able to start the work at the end of next summer. Once underway, it should take 2-3 months.


Who will do it?

The main contractor will be the specialist Bell Hangers, John Taylor & Co of Loughborough. We expect that builders’ work within the tower will be done by A. E. Griffin & Son.


Can I help?

Yes please!

We will be looking for able-bodied volunteers to help with lowering and later reinstating the bells, working under the supervision of the bell hanger. We also need someone to transport the bells to and from Loughborough.

If you would like to get involved in any way, please contact Jon Cleave on 471 463 to find out more.

Fund Raising

The Bell Ringers and the Parish Church Council are launching the “Bell Tower Appeal” to raise the £60,000 required. We are grateful to Brenda Pitfield for allowing us to reproduce the drawing of the Bell Tower by Fred which appears at the start of this article and which will be used throughout our Appeal.

We shall be approaching local businesses and enterprises and trusts that specifically aid church and bell refurbishment projects. To succeed with these organisations, we need to show that we are raising at least 10% of the money through our own enterprises within the Parish.

The ringers themselves have already contributed £2,000 by sponsorships, by donating their payment for ringing at weddings, and by selling articles on eBay. Now we need your help! Here’s some of the ways ……

· Tasie Russell, who is a wonderful local naturalist and painter, has very kindly allowed us to reproduce 8 of her original flower paintings in the form of individual notelet cards. These have been printed to a high standard and are available to purchase from any of the bell ringers or call Adrian on 471 774. The cost is £3 for 4 cards with matching envelopes. All the proceeds are going to the Appeal. Everyone needs a card from time to time to say “Get well” or “Thank you”, so please buy some to be ready for those occasions.

· Julien and Bernie Lightfoot did the graphic design of the cards for us and organised the printing. They have kindly donated some of their own notelet cards depicting birds, and these are similarly available.

· On the counter of the Mace shop you will find Fred’s drawing around a model of the Bell Tower. Please contribute your small change! We are grateful to the Moorses for hosting the collecting box.

· Elsewhere in this magazine you will find an advert placed by the ringers. The Vicar has kindly agreed that we may ring the bells for individuals or groups to mark special days or anniversaries in return for a donation to the Bell Tower Appeal.

· John England, our Tower Captain, and Philip Ventham, will be giving an illustrated talk entitled "Following George's Footsteps - the WW1 Diaries of a Grenadier Guardsmen 1917 to 1919" in the Drax Hall on Wednesday 24th April at 7.30pm. Tickets (£5.00) will soon be available. Proceeds will be donated to the Appeal. Please make a note in your diary.

So there is already quite a lot going on. In the future, the organisers of the next Flower Festival are going to make it in aid of the fund. If you yourself have any ideas, or are willing to get involved in any way, please let me know on 471 463. That is also the number to call if you could make a donation directly – which would be very warmly received!

Jon

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