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Bell Adviser

Bell Adviser’s Report 2019

This has been the first year with formal District Bell Advisers and as a result it has been possible to provide advice and support to a much wider range of towers. The list of towers contacted for a variety of reasons last year reached 32.

Following changes to the BRF Constitution and the Bell Repair Sub-Committee Terms of Reference we are now planning to go beyond just offering advice to more practical help:
  • For large projects we will provide advice, work with ringers, PCCs and others to progress the project and supply voluntary labour to assist the bell hangers.
  • For towers with regular bands we are available to train steeple keepers and provide advice and help as required.
  • For towers without a regular band but rung by the Association we will provide a steeple keeping service.
  • For towers not normally rung we will endeavour to inspect and try and prevent deterioration.
This will require a larger team than just the bell advisers and we will be signing people up to a competency matrix (rather like the ART scheme) and giving them training to ensure everything is done safely.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser’s Report 2018

In terms of major projects activity is still relatively low. The Great Paxton project has resulted in an excellent new ring of 6; however, enthusiasm for developing a project to rehang the 8 at Huntingdon St Mary has had to be put on hold due to structural problems with the church. It was very pleasing to see the Catworth ringers take the novice striking prize at the Huntingdon District ADM, validating the decision to resuscitate a tower with derelict bells and no ringers (the Field of Dreams approach to grant giving).

The appointment of the District Bell Advisors has worked well and they are providing help and advice throughout the Diocese. Over the year the bell advisers have visited 30 different towers to inspect or advise on a range of issues and have had correspondence about issues at a further 11 towers.
A proposed new set of rules for the Bell Restoration Fund has been written and should these be accepted by the AGM the Bell Advisors will be better placed to offer more practical help as well as advice and training. When the new rules come into effect we will be able to start developing standard processes.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser’s Report 2017

During the year projects have been completed at Elm, where the 6 bells are now rehung with new fittings, Burwell and Holywell. The project at Great Paxton, that suffered a major delay when the largest grant giver pulled out, has now found a new source of funding and is back in progress. (For history buffs Great Paxton is one of only three surviving Anglo-Saxon churches in England – well worth a visit).

In all I carried out 15 other visits covering formal inspections, advice on repairs and a bell maintenance course. By the time this report is published we will have the district bell advisors in place. The objective is to form a team that can be more responsive and proactive in supporting projects, addressing problems and teaching steeple keeping.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser’s Report 2016

Another reasonably busy year with visits to 20 towers for a variety of purposes. It has been good to see two major projects – Great Catworth and Denver – come to completion and, at the time of writing, a project to rehang Elm is well in progress. A number of projects have been carried out combining bell work with general re-ordering of the church. A very pleasing project is near completion at Burwell where there has been an opportunity to correct the two difficult handling trebles and improve the rope circle. The augmentation scheme at Great Paxton unfortunately didn’t get the grant funding it needed and alternative, cheaper, options are being explored. I’d like to pay tribute to the hours of work put in by ringers, churchwardens and other members of the PCC to bring these projects to a conclusion.

The change in the requirements for faculty position has caused some issues since it is now necessary to get an Archdeacon’s letter before lifting a bell out of its bearings, however a fast-track process has been agreed with the Ely DAC which has been trialled successfully for Huntingdon St Mary’s. There is still more to be done in training and generating more expertise in bell inspection and maintenance but the revised constitution should give a greater focus on these areas by setting up an addition bell maintenance sub-committee.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser’s Report 2015

Another reasonably busy year with visits to 20 towers for a variety of purposes. It has been good to see two major projects – Meldreth and Bottisham – come to completion and, at the time of writing, a project to rehang and augment Great Catworth to 6 is well in progress. New projects are in the pipeline at Denver, Elm, Great Paxton and Abbots Ripton.

There have been two areas of concern arising over the year: building works at Downham Market and Burwell have resulted in there being insufficient room for ringers between the ropes and the wall and this is being pursued by the DAC. Secondly, nationally there have been issues of residents trying to get bell ringing stopped because of noise nuisance. Locally, sound control has been introduced at Little Paxton which has met with the approval of local residents and a letter produced that can be sent to developers/estate agents building or selling near a church to ensure they inform purchasers that there is regular ringing. 

Other activities included running a maintenance course at Watlington and various visits to inspect problems and advise on minor maintenance issues.

Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser’s Report 2014

This year I have visited 19 towers carrying out a range of activities from helping the PCC develop complete re-hang projects at Catworth, through to an inspection of a single bell at Croyden where the incumbent was worried by the quinquennial report. 

The highlights have been seeing the projects at Meldreth, Bottisham and Burwell make good progress while a worrying glimpse of a possible future came from a visit to Horseheath where Whitechapel have hung 5 bells with electro-magnetic clappers that can be programmed for perfect Grandsire Doubles with no ringers in sight! 

A recent development in faculty applications has been requirements for Statements of Significance and the recording of the installations before the work has started and I’ve have begun to up skill myself to help PCC’s  in these areas as well as the usual inspections, striking measurement and light maintenance.

Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser’s Report 2013

This year I have visited fifteen towers wearing my EDA Bell Adviser’s hat. These visits include advising PCCs where there is one or more bells used for calling to worship, such as Arrington and Bartlow. I have visited towers where there are no regular ringers or a steeple keeper and there is a need for an inspection, and possibly light maintenance, to make sure that the bells can be rung by visiting ringers and on special occasions.

The striking meter has had four outings this year to Great Gransden, Swaffham Bulbeck, Great Wilbraham and Fordham, with variable success. The meter generally correlates well with the perceived odd-struckness of the bells and helps in understanding how the different bells in the ring fit together, however not all of the problems identified are simple to solve.

While there are no major projects in progress at the moment there are a number in preparation and I am always pleased to work wth the ringers, PCC, bell-hangers and DAC Bell Adviser to ensure as smooth a passage as possible through the faculty process.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser's Report 2012

There have been no major projects brought to completion this year although Ramsey have had a significant level of repair to their wooden frame. Bottisham and Sawston are looking for major funding for rehanging their bells. Burwell are investigating moving the clock case to allow the treble and second ropes to be moved and make them easier to ring.

Odd-struckness has been investigated at four towers; the first, Houghton, was done the old-fashioned way by trial and error but Barton, Brampton and Gamlingay have been adjusted with the help of the new odd- struckness meter. In addition visits have been made to 7 other towers for inspections and advice on a variety of issues.

Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser's Report 2011

This year has seen four of the BRF projects come to fruition with the completion of a new ring of 6 at Little Paxton, two bells rehung for chiming at Ramsey St Mary, alterations to the ringing gallery at Wilburton and frame repairs at Brampton. Visits have been made to nine other towers to assist the steeple keepers with inspections and maintenance, look at specific problems and to discuss developing new projects. Unfortunately Elm had to be declared temporarily unringable when a visit to look at a stuck pulleys identified problems with missing clapper bolts. I’d also like members to note that Alconbury are not ringable, work was done by the HBRS to allow them to be rung to test the church structure but this involved some short term temporary clamping of the headstocks. This means they should not be rung without the supervision of an experienced steeple keeper.

Also during the year I attended the CCBR Tower Inspection Course, (which incidentally lead to the students condemning the frame of one of the example towers). I have put my name down to purchase a David Bagley ‘oddstruckness’ meter and when this arrives will be happy to advise towers that would like their striking problems scientifically analysed.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser's Report 2010

The only major project to get underway in the year was the rehang and augmentation to six at Little Paxton. This has received significant funding from a TV show with timing constraints on when the money has to spent. Work on site should be starting in the first quarter 2011.
Work has been completed at Buckworth where four of the five bells have been put in safe storage and the treble rehung for chiming.
It was disappointing to find that the clappers at Swaffham Bulbeck needed rebushing so soon after their installation as a Millennium Project. The reason is not entirely clear but the headstock design did not keep the clappers in alignment with the swing of the bell and this may have contributed to the wear problem. This has now been corrected.
Inspections have been carried out at Cherry Hinton, Sawston and Bottisham with recommendations for improvements or more detailed investigations. Pre-project discussions have been held with Brampton and Abbots Ripton.
I'd be pleased to hear from any tower captains or steeple keepers who would like advice on maintenance, problems with the bells or are thinking of an improvement project.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser's Report 2009

I visited the following towers during the year on behalf of the Association:
Beachamwell Examined the installation of two 15c listed bells and advised they should be hung dead for chiming only.
Buckworth Examined the bells after a report of a bang while chiming. Found the bells to be in a derelict condition and recommended that two of them should have additional support because of the poor condition of the headstocks.
Little Paxton Attended two site meetings lead by the architects, the church wish to augment the bells to 6 in a new frame while raising and securing the old frame higher in the tower for heritage purposes.
Ramsey St Mary Advised on how to restore the bells for chiming as part of the Parish Mission into Action plan.
Sutton in the Isle Attended two meetings to discuss raising the old frame into the roof and re-installing the bells in a new frame.
Wendy The parish wished to chime a single external bell from inside the hall. Andrew Stevens, Patrick Coulson and myself carried out the work.
Wisbech St Augustine Attended after the builders repairing the roof raised concerns that the bell was unsafe. Advised the churchwarden how to repair it.
Tom Ridgman

Bell Adviser's Report 2008

I visited the following towers during the year:-
Babraham - Advice on chiming rope
Duxford - Advice on general maintenance (assisted by Tom Ridgman)
Eltisley - Confirm safe to chime
Ickleton - Advice on ropes and maintenance (assisted by Tom Ridgman)
Little Stukeley - Confirm Ellacombe chime apparatus cannot be re-instated and the bells are safe to chime.
Shouldham - Refurbished ring of six and confirm satisfactory completion
Stretham - Reduce length of ropes after gallery installation
- Try out after complaints about 'go' of bells
Wereham - One bell and clock
Waresley - Restoration and augmentation to four
Roger Palmer on my behalf has visited:
Carlton - Advice on safety of bells for chiming after many years of silence
Cheveley - Advice on condition of bells for chiming after Quinquennial inspection
Timothy Griffiths

Bell Adviser's Report 2007

The role of the Bell Adviser is to ensure that when towers apply for a grant from the Bell Fund, the Trustees are satisfied that the money they are giving is for a worthwhile project. So it does not necessarily mean that the Bell Adviser knows everything there is to know about bells. The role is more likely as a resource in terms of knowing who to get technical advice from and discussion of reports from bell hangers. So I need to be involved at the beginning of a project and at the end to ensure that the project has been completed satisfactorarily.
I have visited the following towers during the year:-
Brampton Proposed rehang
Steeple Gidding Safety inspection
Great Wilbraham Proposed rehang and augementation
Brington Completion of rehang
Chippenham Maintenance inspection
Stretham Proposed ringing gallery
Timothy Griffiths