With great delight, it is announced that the Ab Kettleby bell augmentation is now complete! Work finished on the treble bell late last week, completing the full peal of six.
It’s been a long journey, which started just over two years ago when the original three bells were repaired following the church restoration. With the promise of a new tenor being donated to the church, plans were made to start regular ringing, with a view to building a local band to ring the augmented peal. Shortly afterwards, two further bells were found and made available to Ab Kettleby, but they weren’t a good musical fit. It was decided instead to cast two new bells, and two donors came forward to fund the castings.
Bell handling teaching commenced in June 2014 amid much enthusiasm for the project from villagers. Slowly and steadily, the newly formed band built handling skills, and new members joined the team with ages ranging from 9 to 60! At the time of writing, the Ab Kettleby band totals 14 ringers and learners. A further 3 ringers from neighbouring towers provide regular valuable assistance!
With the bells secured, and bell hanging being offered on a voluntary basis, funds were needed for the fixtures and fittings – both fittings for the bells, but also a new frame side as the existing frame had been created for five bells, even though there was an obvious space for a sixth. Grants were applied for, local businesses approached for help, and fundraising from individuals took place. In just a few months, the modest sum required was reached, and November 2014 saw the go-ahead being given for casting bells and frames.
Around the same time, preparation work started on the bell frame – decades of weather had taken its toll on the iron and steel frame, with multiple layers of rust and corrosion. Each part of the frame was painstakingly brushed and rubbed down to remove all loose debris. The frame was then sprayed with a rust converter to provide a suitable surface for overcoating with primer and paint.
The two new bells were cast at the John Taylor Bell Foundry on 5th February 2015, and a delegation of parishioners visited Loughborough to witness the spectacle.
The augmentation commenced in July 2015, with the dismantling of the existing three bells. Two of the bells needed to be removed for repair – the wooden bell ‘pads’ had also succumbed to the forces of weather, so were to be replaced by modern resin pads. While these bells were out of the tower, they received some light tuning to allow a correct match with the full peal of bells. The third bell was removed from the frame, but kept in the bell chamber as it was the frame side needing repair – the force of the rust underneath had caused the base of the frame to fracture. The weather damage to the frame meant some parts were extremely stubborn to remove – a last resort of angle grinding was necessary on some sections. With only one bell left in the chamber it provided the perfect opportunity to finish off the painting jobs.
September 2015 saw five bells arrive at Ab Kettleby – the two old bells, two brand new bells and the relocated tenor bell. Some villagers made the most of the warm autumnal evening and came to watch the bells being transported into the church and winched up in the tower – certainly not something to see very often! Frame repairs were taking longer than anticipated so it wasn’t until 31st October before the frame was reassembled and all of the bells had made it to their final destinations.
The old three bells were straightforward to get back to ringing again – no holes to be drilled, no sliders to fit, or pulley boxes to be lined up – just drop the rope down and attach to the wheels! The ringers were keen to return to Ab Kettleby for practice nights, so ringing returned to 3 bells at Ab Kettleby on 18th November 2015.
With unfortunate timing, the volunteers could not return until nearly Christmas to progress the augmentation any further. A significant milestone was achieved on Wednesday 23rd December, just prior to practice night when the new Second and Tenor bells were ‘roped’ and five bells rang out for the first time from Ab Kettleby! Time, however, had run out on getting the new treble up and running in time for Christmas.
That brings the story pretty much up to date – the missing parts for the treble arrived in Ab Kettleby on 7th January and with works completed, the treble was rung up and down a couple of times to test all was well.
Today, Wednesday 13th January, sees the Ab Kettleby bell-ringers ring the brand new six bell peal for the first time at the practice evening!
(Please note: The benefactors have requested that until they have been given the opportunity to ring the Ab Kettleby bells, visiting ringers will not be permitted to do so. The inagural Quarter Peal is planned for Saturday 16th January for the benefit of the donors, after which visiting bands will be welcome by arrangement.)