The installation of the peal of six light bells at St Giles in 2012, just in time for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, has been extremely popular. The bells have been well used by local ringers, young and not so young, and visitors alike.

This gave rise to consideration of an augmentation to a full octave of eight bells. This could be achieved in one of two ways: one was simply to add two lighter bells (trebles) and the other was to add a treble and a heavier bell (tenor), known as a Top and Tail augmentation. As the original six bells were on the light side the latter was considered the preferable alternative and a structural engineer confirmed that the tower was well able to accommodate this.

The Top and Tail option required the fourth of the original six bells to be tuned down half a note as anyone with a musical background will appreciate. The PCC resolved on 16th March 2020 to progress an augmentation along these lines, subject to Faculty and funding, and the chosen bell founders were Taylors of Loughborough who had installed the six bells in 2012. The price quoted by Taylor’s included a number of money saving options, one of which was for the fourth bell that required retuning to be removed from the tower by volunteers and delivered to their premises in Loughborough.

Behind the scenes work was done with the Faculty application which pleasingly was granted on 22nd September 2020. In parallel with this, an appeal for donations from the wider bell ringing community was launched and this brought in the necessary monies without too much of a drain on the hard pressed St Giles congregation members during the difficult lockdown times. 

The work has now been completed.  The updated details for the St. Giles bells are available here, Dove's Guide

Below is an account, with photos, from both October 2020 when the existing fourth bell was removed and taken away for retuning, and (further down the page) the week in March 2021 when this bell together with the two new bells were delivered to St. Giles and installed in the tower.

Articles by Nick Wilkins.

Removal of the 4th Bell for Retuning

Whilst carefully and safely removing a bell from the tower might seem a daunting prospect, we are fortunate to have Brian Butcher, the Bell Restoration Officer of the Kent County Association of Change Ringers (KCACR) to call upon. He has the equipment and expertise to lead such an exercise. Brian suggested coming to Farnborough on Monday, 26th October 2020 and a team of volunteers was assembled to assist.


Before the bell could be lowered down the tower certain enabling works had to be carried out. This included carefully prising up the skirting trim in the ringing chamber so freeing the carpet and underlay and enabling these to be lifted. This then allows access to the
trap door. A trial lifting of this trap door was done a couple of weeks before the intended removal of the bell and, similarly, a trap door further up the tower was freed up after unbolting the legs of the belfry access ladder.

Now to the bell itself! The rope was removed and so was the wheel. The carefully crafted wheels can be separated into two halves by unbolting and prising apart. The bell clapper also had to be removed leaving the bell on its headstock still in its pit.

  Under the direction of Brian Butcher, also known as Red Leader, on account of his red overalls, the ball bearing housings were unbolted from the frame. In order to lift the bell out of its pit, chains and pulleys capable of taking the weight of the bell and its headstock were carried up the tower and suspended from a central steel beam. This steel beam is situated above the bells at the base of the spire and has the clock chime bell suspended from it.  

Gradually the weight of the fourth bell was taken up and it was manoeuvred to the centre of the belfry. From there it was a straight ‘drop’ to the base of the tower. see panel to the right..

Once carefully lowered the bell was placed on a trolley to then be pushed to the camper van in which it was to be transported to Loughborough three days later. Some muscle power was needed to get the bell inside the van and accompanying it were its wheel and clapper as the bell foundry said they also needed these so they could test ring it once retuned.

Valued help in addition to Red Leader, Brian Butcher, Kent County Assoc. Bell Restoration Officer, who hails from Hythe, was provided by Lesley Barclay (Horton Kirby), Graham Long (Hayes) and Michael Stuttard (Sevenoaks). Additionally, Doug Fisher ( Limpsfield ) supplied the trolley and Caroline Stockmann (Sevenoaks) kindly provided refreshments to celebrate her birthday that day. Thanks go to them all.


The fourth bell was duly transported safely to Loughborough on 29th October and we eagerly awaited its return together with the two new bells, to complete our augmented peal of eight bells.  

Photos by Eddie Roberts

Installing the retuned Fourth Bell and the two New Bells

Fitting of the bell frame commenced on Monday 22nd March 2021. The clock bell had to be taken down and temporarily placed on the belfry floor as it would impede the ringing bell in the new frame. A decision is to be made on the reinstatement of the hour chime, possibly being moved to the Gillett & Johnston service bell.

The bells were delivered to Farnborough on Tuesday 23rd March and hoisted up the tower that day.

The installation was completed (subject to minor snagging) on Maundy Thursday, 1st April. New sallies are red, white and blue to match the existing ropes. John Taylor of Loughborough were the bell founders and installers of the bells. The exact final cost of the work is yet to be confirmed as it depends on, among other things, the number of characters in the inscriptions but will be circa £25k.

The updated details for the St. Giles bells are available here, Dove's Guide

Nick Wilkins, April 2021