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In Full . . .

Let the bells ring out

Posted on October 21 2011 at 9:23:11

The bells

After six years of fundraising, the ringers of St Laurence, Alvechurch, have revealed detailed plans for the restoration of their beloved bells.

They were presented at a launch at The Ark church hall at St Laurence as The Village was going to press – and aim to get the work completed to celebrate the bells’ 300th anniversary.

There are eight bells ranging in weight from 200kg to 600kg. The bells have survived three centuries but are showing signs of wear and must be repaired before they become too dangerous to ring.

The biggest problem is that the frame which supports the bells is working loose inside the tower and a steel supporting grille must be inserted underneath it.

This means the bells will have to be removed and while they are out of the tower they will be sent off for a complete overhaul and tuning. When they come back from the bell foundry, the bells will be mounted back in the tower using new bearings and a new frame. 

Despite the bells being re-hung several times, they have never been turned so there is extensive wear from the clappers striking the sound bow. The clappers are also in need of re-fixing as the bearings are worn, allowing excessive lateral movement and the occasional “clunk!’

The estimate for the works is just less than £100,000 and it will be the biggest project in the tower since 1891 – and the first time the five oldest bells have been out of the tower since they were installed in 1711.

The bells would, of course, be of little use without the ringers. The ringing team has always represented a wide cross-section of village life, with the current team ranging from school children to pensioners, with varied careers including a stone mason, computer engineer, administrator, clinical psychologist and chartered surveyor among others.

They have won the call change section of the North Worcestershire Striking competition for the last three years in a row.

The appeal for the money was reported in The Village back in February 2006, when the total needed was thought to be £60,000. Since then many fundraising events have taken place, including carol singing, Easter egg selling, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, fun runs, quizzes, a brides’ ball (for couples that had been previously married at the church), book and cake selling and talks and exhibitions to the WI, village societies and a motorcycle club.

The village and local people have been extremely generous in their support of events. Mechanical support is to be provided by JCB, helped by contact through Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham.

There is still the opportunity to sponsor a bell and to support any of the projects that are required as part of the work, such as the rebuilding of the wheels or the implementation of new clappers.

The ringers have made a series of grant applications and many organisations have donated money, and coupled with a promise of £8,000 from the Worcestershire Bells Repair Fund, they now have around £65,000.

The Diocese have signed off the “faculty” that gives permission for the works to be started, so the ringers can at last see something happening after all of their hard work.

Meanwhile, the fundraising continues, with a table top sale at The Ark on November 12 and a “promises auction” on November 26.

For more details, see http://www.alvechurchbells.org.uk

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