The following is an article the Micheldever Band is very grateful to have had printed in the Dever News as part of their appeal to raise funds for new ropes and ahead of their Tower Open Morning of the 17th November.
Please look out for a follow up report next week with some good news!
Gary Marsh – Wonston
The Bells of St Mary’s
It was thanks to the curiosity of new bell-ringer Sharon Duncan-Reynolds that we made the discovery. Sharon wanted to go up the tower to see what the bells actually do and as local ringing master Edmund Wratten happened to be present that day, he led the way. Donning ear defenders, they watched carefully as a ringer below pulled the bell ropes. That is how we discovered that, even when the lightest bell was rung, the huge metal bell frame moved against the wooden frame on which it is mounted. That was last autumn and as a result we were prompted to give serious thought to the whole state of the bell chamber.
Work immediately started to stabilise the frame and until it got too cold for further work most of the 60 or so rusted lower bolts,which are over 60cm long, were loosened (with more than a little effort) greased and retightened so stopping any movement of the metal frame. Since the spring the 40 or so top bolts have received similar treatment. Next we tackled the rusting frame itself – cleaning with wires brushes and white spirit, followed by the application of rust preventing undercoat and rust preventing top coat. The plain bearings on which the bells hang, having accumulated years of solidified grease, have been cleaned out, new felt pads inserted and the bearings re-greased. The wooden frame has received wood preserver and the whole bell chamber cleaned out.
The pictures reveal the difference that has been made but probably don’t quite show how awkward it is to get at some parts of the frame or how dirty we have been getting crawling around it. It is clear that little maintenance has been carried out for quite some time. Apparently Harry Symes, blacksmith, bell ringer and steeple keeper for many years, who made the rope guide for the church but died in 1991, used to keep the bells in immaculate condition. It is said that his family kept the bells maintained while there was no ringing during WWI so that when peace came they were ready to ring out.
The current team cannot claim to live up to those standards but has put in its best effort and it has been a team effort; there is no way this could have been done without lots of hands on the job and even so it has taken a couple of months intensive work each Tuesday to get the cleaning and painting done. We now at least all have a better appreciation of what it takes to keep the bells going.
We do have one thing to ask though. We have all put in labour and some cash to do this work; no charge has bee made to the Church. The Church did pay £200 this year to replace a rope for us, for which we are very grateful. But our 5 remaining ropes urgently need replacing; one has a temporary repair and another will very soon need the same.
We need £1000 to allow us to replace our 5 remaining ropes and keep the bells ringing at Micheldever for the next 10-15 years. Please can you help.
Any donations would be gratefully received. They can be given to Belinda Hughes, or posted into the box in the door to the tower in the corner of St Mary’s. Cash is great or cheques should be payable to Micheldever PCC. Please consider completing a gift aid envelope so we can claim the tax back on your donation.
We will be ringing for the service of remembrance on 11 Nov and again at 12:30 pm as part of the national celebration of the centenary of the Armistice in 1918 – Ringing Remembers. Church bells across the country will ring out and Big Ben will strike. We invite you to join us if you would like to see the bells being rung and to get a feel for a bell rope afterwards. We always welcome new ringers.
Bell ringing team:- Andrew Tollyfield (steeple keeper), Juliet Pattison (tower captain & secretary), Mary Tiles, Felicity Botham, Belinda Hughes, Sharon Duncan-Reynolds, Ben Bell and with help for practices from Charlotte Smith (Kingsworthy). Also special thanks to Charlotte for her help working with the team on maintenance.