The Tower Restoration and Bell Re-hang Project
A bell re-hang project was mooted in 1975 when Brian Threlfall of the Towers and Belfries Committee of the CCCBR (Central Council of Church Bell Ringers) was invited to write a report on the condition of the bells. This was presented to the parochial church council but was not acted upon due to other more urgent structural priorities of the church.
In 1996 the bells finally came to the top of the list of priorities and a restoration project was started with various reports written on the condition of the bells, bell frame and tower, and clock & chimes, and quotations received for the work, which finally commenced in 2000.
The project included moving the bells down into to the old clock room into a new metal frame. With a professional observation that the tone of No3 bell was “conspicuously poor”, a decision was made to cast a new bell in its place. This was paid for by the ringers. The clock & chimes were moved down to the then empty intermediate chamber. This was formerly the ringing room until restoration of the church in the late 1890s. The old bell frame had to be retained and the original No3 bell is still in situ, used as a 5 minute bell.
The ringers were involved throughout the project and actively contributed to the design and layout of the clock room to ensure that bell ropes were unhindered through the tower, and their wish to have reasonably easy access to the bells for cleaning and maintenance was also included in the bell layout. This re-organisation of the tower now enables escorted visitors to visit the clock room and belfry to see the installation.
Whilst the bells and clock were out of the tower it also received attention, with external re-pointing, re-building the parapets and decorating internally throughout.
In 2005 phase 2 of the project was completed, which was the istallation of the tower arch screen and installation of a toilet and kitchen on the ground floor. Once again, the ringers were consulted in the process and contributed to the design to maximise the space we had in the new ringing room above.
All the reports and documentation for the project are held in the archives and some are recorded here. Not all of them are specifically relevant to the bells but they all played a key part in the restoration of the tower and bells.
- Bell Installation Report (1975) by Brian Threlfall MA CEng MICE FFB
- Whitechapel Bell Foundry Report (1995)
- Tower Structural Report (1995) by Adrian Dempster BSc CEng MISructE MICE
- Bell Frame Report (1994) by Chris Pickford FSA
- Bedford Timber Preservation Report (1997)
- James Jewellers Report (clock restoration) (1996)
- English Heritage Letter (1996)
- DAC Advisor Letter (1997) by Rob Walker MSc MCIOB MRTPI MIOHBC
The bells were rededicated on Thursday 26th April 2001. The Rt Rev’d John Flack, Bishop of Huntingdon presided. During the service the choir sang an anthem composed by Don Airey, member of the choir and keyboard player for the rock group Deep Purple. The anthem is appropriately named “The Heavy Metal Anthem”, and the words are attached here together with the order of service.