Annual Tower Clean-Up

The annual tower clean-up is not a very interesting event in our calendar but it is an important one.

We are fortunate that since the tower restortation in 2000 effective bird proofing is in place which prevents most of the dirt associated with towers from entering. However, we still get a lot of twigs, leaves and dust accumulating in parts of the old belfry. Some of this finds its way down the tower into the other rooms but generally speaking they are acceptably clean all year round.

I always start at the top of the tower in the old belfry which involves squeezing inside the old bell frame accompanied by Henry which works continuously as we move from bell-pit to bell-pit. This area takes about four hours and then we move down to the new belfry which is a slightly easier environment to access. This is two hour stint making sure that the bell frame is swept and the floor vaccumed. The challenge here is stepping over the clock wires and again it helps to be a contortionist.

Then, down to the clock room. This is quite an easy room to clean and takes about an hour but there are still pinch-points to negotiate and of course Henry needs to be moved around and lifted into certain less accessible places.

Finally, the spiral staircase, so Henry has to be carried to the top and working backwards we clean each stair tread, window reveal and the walls. This is another 30 minutes or so.

I usually clean during August and this year the tower has been a relatively cool place to work as we endure the prolonged heat wave. I work over the course of about a week and take photos of the completed work. At the end of it all Henry gets a wipe down with a damp cloth and his bag is replaced (again), and he’s then ready for his general duties during the year.

Cleaning the tower serves two purposes. Firstly, an annual thorough clean prevents any long-term accumulation of detritus which could damage the bell installation and clock (we are maintaining about £80,000 worth of equipment), and secondly it is a opportunity to inspect everything, especially the bells to make sure all the fittings are secure and safe to use.

We occasionally take visitors to see the belfry and clock room and it is important that they see it in good condition and well looked after.

My photographs this year include some graffiti. It can be found in one of the window reveals in the sprial staircase and reads EE 1687. Who’s are these initials? They are possibly those of Edward Elwood. He was one of the churchwardens at that time. It is known that the tower was restored in 1686 and there is a lead plaque on the top of the tower with his and his co-churchwardens’ initials, NL (Nicholas Livett) with the same date. We also know from the churchwardens accounts of that time that Edward was a carpenter and did occasioanal work to repair the clock and the bells. We will never know for certain if it is his graffiti, albeit a year after the tower repairs, it is amongst many names and dates in the tower. Every time I visit I feel that I am walking through history!

Well, that’s the hard work done for another year, the next major work is servicing the clock in December.

Published by Phillip George

Photographer, campanologist, gardener, walker, artist, thinker, doer.

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