ST GILES BELLS - THE OPPORTUNITY
Introduction & History
A little research has revealed that as long ago as 1907 a bell was cast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon with the intention that it be the tenor of a ring of six bells. Subsequently, there was a fire in the tower and that bell was destroyed and replaced in 1951 by another bell, weighing just over 9 cwts, which is still in the tower today. In 1969 John Taylor & Co, Bell Founder of Loughborough, was requested to provide an estimate for adding another five bells to make a peal of six, but this never proceeded.
Many churchgoers will be aware that recently there has been talk of fulfilling the dreams of our forefathers by installing a ‘light’ peal of bells that can ring out over Church Fields and High Elms as well as Farnborough itself reminding residents of the presence of the church and calling them to worship.
A structural engineer has inspected the tower and he confirms that it will accommodate a ring of bells and if the bells aren’t too heavy then costly structural work, such as the installation of a concrete ring beam, can be avoided.
By good fortune I’ve been informed about the availability of a
‘light’ ring of six new bells, with the heaviest bell, known as the
tenor, weighing 2.75 cwts, cast by John Taylor Bell Foundry,
Loughborough. These bells can be purchased as a result of a
cancelled order and are therefore for sale at a concessionary price.
Final tuning of the bells has not yet been carried out and one bell
(the 2nd) needs recasting which would allow St Giles or a donor to
have a bespoke inscription on that bell. In addition to the bells
themselves, money has to be found to meet the cost of the fittings
(wheels, headstocks, clappers etc) and installation. The proposal
involves the retention and repositioning of the current 9 cwt bell
in the belfry so enabling the ring of six new bells to be
accommodated. For those interested, the tenor note will be E and the
photographs show the bells at the Foundry.
We are currently at the stage of Faculty Application and when this is granted we can plan for the (re) casting of the number two bell and the installation work in the tower. Despite our eagerness to get the bells installed, the Bell Foundry say they can't program the bell (re) casting and installation until the Faculty is granted and that's likely to mean the bells not going in until early in the New Year.
Through the kind generosity of Donors including The Friends of St Giles, The Kent County Association of Change Ringers (KCACR), and money in the Tower Fund, most of the money has been found but there are still ways to help!
The Taylor’s Bell Foundry of Loughborough are willing to allow a reduction against their quoted price for the work if we can provide fit and able bodied assistance to their bell hanger and therefore anyone able to assist should please make themselves known. I'm told the installation work is likely to take two weeks but offers for a few days or parts of days will be fine - offers of help do not have to be for the full fortnight. The KCACR, as well as providing a generous grant, boast a volunteer ‘heavy gang’ who are willing to assist us in this respect and they offer their help at no cost.
From my experience when St Martins, Chelsfield augmented their ring of bells from six to eight in 2009, a rota of people to make teas, provide refreshments and ‘go fetch’ greatly assisted the bell hangers working in/up the tower. So help here will be appreciated, too, please.
Additionally, certain works will need to be carried out in the tower, including alterations to the existing clock weight box and the installation of adjustable sound control flaps over the belfry louvers. Volunteers to assist with this work will be very welcome. Further, prior to the hanging of the peal of six bells, the current 9 cwt bell will be removed from its current location in the belfry and needs to be taken to Loughborough for servicing and to check it will fit into the new frame that will be subject to a trial assembly at the Bell Foundry. Offers of transport from anyone with a vehicle capable of transporting the 9 cwt bell to Loughborough will be greatly appreciated, please.
Apart from gratefully receiving any further donations towards the project, we will, of course, also need to train bell ringers. As the bells will be light, they will not require undue physical effort. A good illustration is that bell ringing will require no more effort than, say, pushing a child on a swing and it’s mainly a matter of timing and technique rather than physical effort; 90% inspiration and only 10% perspiration!
From my personal experience I can vouch for the attractions of
bell ringing as a team activity and through it I’ve travelled the
length and breadth of the UK ringing at all the English Cathedrals
as well as ringing as far afield as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand
and South Africa. In so doing I’ve made life long friends who, like
me, enjoy ringing the bells to the glory of God and, at the same
time, reminding people of the church’s presence.
Bell ringing brings people together and helps fulfil the mission of the church in reaching out to all sectors of the community. The six bells that I’m advocating for St Giles are light by normal standards and will be capable of being rung by the young and old as well as those in between. This really is an investment in the future and an exciting enhancement of the facilities at St Giles.
Conclusion and ‘appeal’
If you have read the above carefully, you will have noticed that
one bell needs to be (re) cast and I’m willing to make arrangements
for anyone who is interested to be made aware of when this will take
place at Loughborough so that it can be witnessed. Seeing a bell
‘born’ or cast is an emotional experience and very interesting. A
party from Chelsfield went to Loughborough in 2009 to see their new
bells being cast and it was an unforgettable experience.
May I therefore, as outlined above, ask for offers of time and talents from Parishioners and the congregation of St Giles. I have leaflets which I will display on Notice Boards and distribute to interested persons giving more details about bell ringing and may I thank you in anticipation. Please make contact with offers of help in any way or if you have any questions or queries.
Nick Wilkins, October 2011.