The tower is an often neglected part of the church building, rarely visited by other than the ringers. Even then, most ringers are not familiar with bell and clock installations and only a few will have responsibilty for maintaining them. It is important to appoint at least one of the ringers, or qualified person to carry out routine inspection and maintenance in the tower, and to have this agreed by the Parochial Church Council (PCC).
The tower can be a dangerous environment in which to work and personal safety must be the priority when ringing, inspecting the installation, or carrying out maintenance and/or repairs.
In most towers this is carried out by volunteers and it is important that they have knowledge and experience in this work. Some work may require specialist knowledge and should be referred to the PCC. Further resources may be found at:
The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers online document on Belfry Upkeep.
Each tower set up is different and will have its own requirements but here are some ideas about how to organise an inspection and maintenance routine for your tower. (The examples below are specifically for our tower)
The ringing room, clock room and belfry are accessible to the public during guided tours, in accordance with Ecclesiastical Insurance Guidelines. All new learners to the tower are also given a guided tour when, under controlled conditions, a ringing bell can be demonstrated.
The Ringing Room
The ringing room should be kept clean and tidy at all times. Regular cleaning not only helps maintain a safe environment but makes it a welcoming space to ringers and visitors.
Bell rope tail ends and sallies must be in good order. Boxes, used for standing on whilst ringing, must be in good order and safe to bear a person’s weight. Portable electrical equipment must be P.A.T. tested by the PCC at defined intervals. Fire extinuishers must be regularly checked by an approved supplier arranged by the PCC.
The emergency evacuation procedure is confirmed with ringers on an annual basis. This is important for all towers, especially if access/egress from the tower is restricted. This “refresher” should be documented.
The Clock Room
The clock rooom layout is designed to include a small museum. It contains the clock and chiming apparatus and several obsolete pieces of equipment made redundant when repairs/maintenance has been carried out. We also store replacement bell ropes, cleaning equipment and maintenance tools in this room. The nature of the room means that there are trip hazards, and any inspection or maintenance may require access to the clock gantry via steep steps. Care must be taken at all times. The moving parts of the chime barrel are protected by a barrier. Low beams are protected by foam to protect anyone should they bump their head. These parts of the room are not accessible to visitors.
Inspection here is to check that all the clock wires are in tact, that the clock and chimes are working, and that the electric winding for the clock is in good order. The room must be kept clean and tidy at all times.
A walkway has been designed into the layout of the installation to enable visitors to see the bells.
Weekly visits to silence the bells for special bell control practices enables frequent checks of ropes, stays and sliders. An annual check is made of the whole installation.
This room must be kept clean and tidy at all times and any repairs identified must be made quickly, or other suitable action taken to keep the installation and ringers safe.
The Old Belfry
This room is checked every quarter. It contains the old bell frame and the original No 3 bell. A brief inspection includes checking that all the bird wire is in tact and that there is no damage to the bell or fittings.
Access to the tower roof is strictly restricted and is with permission only from the rector or churchwardens.
The tower is cleaned from top to bottom annually during the summer. Everything is vaccumed and inspected at that time. Cleaning is recorded in the tower handbook.
Periodic Access by Contractors
The tower is opened as required for contractors employed by the PCC. After any work has been carried out the steeple keeper inspects the installation as appropriate to ensure that no accidental damage has occured and that it is safe to ring the bells.