2016 in review

Well, what a year 2016 has been for our tower! It started with the completion of the augmentation project in January. What a thrill it was to hear all six bells ringing, after all the hard work through 2015 in creating the bells, and the extra work needed to install them in the tower. The new tenor altered the key of the bells, and the re-tuning of the third and fourth bell of the peal meant that the whole set of bells sounded like they were meant to be!

 

Quarter Peal Attempts

We attempted to ring a Quarter Peal to celebrate the successful completion of the augmentation project at the end of January, but alas a technical problem (the rope on the treble jumped off the bell wheel) meant this was lost around half way through the ringing.

However, the Quarter Peal was to be rearranged for summer and coincided with a weekend of events celebrating the restoration of St James’, the official 90th birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II, and a dedication service for the new bells. On June 12th, we successfully rang eight touches of Plain Bob Doubles for the the first ever quarter peal at Ab Kettleby, in around 45 minutes.

Dedication Service

The dedication service for the bells took place on 13th June 2016, and was led by Rev Dr Peter Hooper. We also welcomed back Ab Kettleby’s former priest, Rev Sue Paterson, who had given her blessing to the casting of the bells in early 2015. There was ringing before and after the well attended service, and a link video link from the bell chamber was projected onto a screen for the congregation to view each of the bells as they were introduced throughout the service.

Alan Jacques Award

Last year, our tower captain, James, was nominated for Leicester Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers’ Alan Jacques award, in recognition of the work carried out in running the augmentation project, and recruiting and training a brand new band of ringers at Ab Kettleby.

E. Alan Jacques (1932 – 2011 aka “The Boss”) was a very talented person. His unique character enabled him to achieve high standards and be a very proficient ringer whilst still being able to be approachable and an encouraging member of the community often helping learners and less experienced ringers to progress. After celebrating his life, a donation of £1000 was made to the Guild. This was from collections and family donation After discussions with his family and the Recruitment & Education (R&E) Committee, this award has been established.

The Award will be given each year to an individual whose presence in his or her tower has proved beneficial to the rest of the band in whatever capacity. This may be a newcomer, but not necessarily a young person. It may not be the best ringer, but someone who has consistency and determination. It is a person who as Alan Jacques would say, “does their best and enjoys the ringing”. Alan Jacques was a role model for the new ringer and encouraged all ringers to come and enjoy the ringing community. ‘You’ll always be welcome in any group of ringers” he would say, and this was an important part of supporting the ringing community.

James wasn’t successful in 2015, but the nomination was carried over to 2016, and at the LDGCBR AGM in October, much to James’ surprise, he was presented with the Alan Jacques Award. James comments “I am truly honoured to have been presented with this award, however credit must be due to the whole team at Ab Kettleby. The commitment and enthusiasm from the team of ringers we have trained in just over two years has been the key to our success! As a result, we continue to grow in numbers and knowledge!”

Ringing, Ringers and Ringing Course

We’ve come a long way from the early days of novice ringers learning to handle the three original bells, back in June 2014. We now have a core band of six Ab Kettleby taught ringers who are present at most practice sessions and service ringing. Captain James receives invaluable help from two experienced local ringers on practice nights, so there is plenty of opportunity to learn and progress. It’s notable that we usually have more than enough ringers on the Wednesday practice nights to have all six bells ringing.  We also have a wider base of not quite so regular ringers – who for whatever reason struggle to join practice nights now, but we are always pleased to see them! In total, fourteen ringers have so far been taught or are in the process of being taught to ring at Ab Kettleby! A truly remarkable number, given the relatively small size of the village and wider issues surrounding recruitment and retention of church bell ringers.

Three of the team attended The Leicester Diocesan Guild Ringing Course in September. They all enjoyed the ringing, and have made significant progress following a dedicated weekend of ringing with a far more experienced band and excellent tutors. Two are now able to ring inside bells on plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles; skills we look to consolidate at every opportunity!

Visitors

The bells of Ab Kettleby have a unique place in the bell-ringing community – namely we are the first tower (alphabetically!) to be listed in Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers. The addition of the three new bells has made our tower a very attractive place for ringers to visit since the augmentation completed. We’ve had half a dozen different visiting bands arrange ringing throughout the year, along with hosting the LDGCBR Melton District monthly meeting in April and local group Society of Framland Ringers in August. Our visitor book is rapidly filling up, as we also have a steady of stream of visiting ringers join occasional practice nights and services.

Radio

We have been delighted to welcome BBC Radio Leicester and Melton local station 103 The Eye into the tower to report on our progress and activities throughout the year. Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester popped out to see us in January, as a following up to his original visit back in October 2014. The new bells were in place  – very different from the rusty three he visited a year earlier!

We were invited to join 103 The Eye at the end of January, and spent the best part of an hour on-air talking about the augmentation project, the new and old bells, and more generally about ringing. 103 The Eye followed up in June by visiting the church during our quarter peal.

2017

So what does 2017 hold in store for us at Ab Kettleby?

Technically, there are some jobs that still need to be finished off following the augmentation:

  • In the Spring, we will look to replace three old bell ropes on the original bells with some brand new replacements. We’ve held off from doing this so far, as the introduction of all new un-stretched slightly springy ropes would likely to have been a bit of a handful for our lesser experienced ringers.
  • There is still a small amount of frame painting to finish off which we simply haven’t got around to during 2016. We’ll give the bell chamber a clean up at the same time and then plan to update our photography stock on the website.

Ringing wise, we continue to teach handling, and progress towards change ringing methods. Hopefully more of the team will attend the Ringing Course in 2017!

In March 2017, we will be ringing for our first wedding since the augmentation was completed; an occasion we’re all looking forward to! Our band of ringers will continue to support neighbouring tower Asfordby when they’re short of ringers for their numerous weddings throughout the year!

Happy New Year!

The Inaugural Quarter Peal

We did it! After a failed attempt in January, yesterday, the ringers successfully completed the very first Quarter Peal in Ab Kettleby!

The quarter peal kicked off a weekend of celebrations for St James’ church, marking the reopening of the church after the recent restoration, the completion of the augmentation project, and Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday. Saturday saw family picnics in the churchyard and various activities for the younger villagers. Visitors could also try their hand at ringing a church bell once the quarter had finished.

And today, we formally welcome the bells into the church with a dedication service.

Details of the quarter peal are on Bellboard


Ab Kettleby, Leicestershire
St James
Saturday, 11 June 2016 in 45 (8)
1260 Plain Bob Doubles
  1. John Adcock
  2. Mary Barrass
  3. George Dawson
  4. Peter Hayward
  5. Peter Brown
  6. James Lowe
First on the bells. First quarter – 6
Rung in thanksgiving for the life of Tony Clayton, instigator of the augmentation project.

Watch the whole quarter peal here:

11th & 12th June – Celebrating Queen and Bells

This weekend, St. James’ Church, Ab Kettleby, is hosting two special events.Sally

On Saturday 11th June, to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, the day will start with a quarter-peal attempt at 10:45am after which there will be a Family Picnic in the churchyard (bring your own picnic and chairs). Lots of activities are planned, with games, races, treasure hunt and an opportunity for adults and older children to ring the bells.

On Sunday 12th June at 2:30pm, the Rev. Dr. Peter Hooper will dedicate our three new bells and thank our benefactors. This will be followed by light refreshments.

Over the weekend there will be both a live ‘webcam’ relay of the bells in the belfry and pictorial displays of the augmentation from casting to installation.

Bell Inscriptions Revealed

Now that the new bells are up and ringing in Ab Kettleby, we can now reveal the details and inscriptions which have been adorned on them.


 

The treble bell, cast on 6th February 2015 in Loughborough weighs 3-3-7. The bell is donated by John Adcock in memory of Hazel, an experienced and popular ringer at neighbouring Long Clawson, who died on 5th May 2014:

Treble

IN MEMORIAM VITAE

HAZEL J. ADCOCK

DEO GRATIAS

Treble

2015


 

The second, also cast on 6th February 2015 in Loughborough weighs 4-1-0. The bell is donated by H. Mary Barrass of Shepshed:

Second

THE GIFT OF H MARY BARRASS
TOWER CAPTAIN
ST.BOTOLPH SHEPSHED

Second

EK TOΥ AΛΦA EIΣ TO ΩMEΓA

CAST BY THE DONOR 2015

(Part of this inscription is Greek, which means: "From First to Last" and signifies Ab Kettleby's position at the very top of bell towers listed in "Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers")

Mary, who is part of the team at the John Taylor & Co bell foundry, was responsible for pouring the metal into the bell casts for both of the new bells.


 

The tenor bell, weighing 8-2-22, was cast on 1st February 1929 in Loughborough for Gorran, Cornwall. Gorran were in receipt of a relocated full peal of eight bells in 2014, so this bell has been given a new lease of life at Ab Kettleby and is donated in memory of Rev Nick Green:

Tenor

RECAST AND 1½CWT ADDED
1929

J.U YONGE * VICAR

J.W. DREW         } 
WM. KENDALL } CH. WARDENS

W.W. RICHARDS. CAPTAIN

Tenor

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
1837 - 1897

E.R. SOWELL B.A VICAR
WILLIAM KENDALL JR }
WILLIAM WEST              } CH. WARDENS

Ringing on Six at Ab Kettleby

The day has finally arrived when the Ab Kettleby team can ring all six bells!

The evening was more of a celebration than a practice night. It involved cake and Champagne!

Cake

But the serious task of ringing a brand new peal of six bells was the purpose of the evening. This video shows the first and second ringing of rounds on six.

The orange ‘glow’ in the first clip is from the heater – it was a chilly night in the church, tonight!

We had a bit of a mis-hap with the second – the slider is jumping outside of its stop blocks. There is still a bit of tidying up work to do in the bell chamber, and the bolt attaching the slider for number 2 is an incorrect size, and allows a bit of vertical play on the slider – enough to ride above the blocks. Fortunately, easy to reset and carry on ringing.

Then there were six!

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.)

Spiders

A new addition has appeared in the Ab Kettleby tower – a bell-rope spider!

Ab Kettleby is a home to a number of horses in the various stables and studs dotted around the village. The most famous of which would be Desert Orchid, who spent his summers in the village, and lent his name to help raise funds for the restoration of the church a few years ago.

Spider

So as a nod to Dessie, and our other equine neighbours, the spider has been formed from six horse shoes, each providing a hook for a rope. A welcome addition to the tower which is starting to feel a bit more ‘professional’!

Augmentation Christmas Update

First of all, apologies for the lack of news on the website over the last couple of months.* The augmentation is progressing, but progress has been frustratingly slow.

September seems such a long time ago when we excitedly received the bells at the church – at the time, it felt like real progress and it wouldn’t be many more weeks before we could be ringing.

The frame repairs were completed and all bells located in the correct place in the tower by the end of October. A couple of weeks later and the easy part of getting the existing three to a ringable state was completed. The ringers elected to return to the three bells at Ab Kettleby on practice nights, as the extended displacement was beginning to take its toll! So Wednesday night practices resumed in St James’ on 18th November 2015.

Because of the frame issues, the augmentation process has been ongoing much longer than anyone had anticipated. Which in turn means that various long-standing personal commitments from the volunteers have also prevented much progress in recent weeks.

bells 23-dec

That said, we are tantalisingly close to ringing all six bells. Some hard work today has seen two of the remaining three bells be fitted out and ready to ring! The second was up and running by about 17:00, and the tenor was completed at about 19:30.

So we had a bit of a delayed start to our Wednesday practice night while the tenor’s rope was adjusted to the correct length. (Not a problem – we had planned a more social night tonight, with tea/coffee and cakes galore to fill the void!!) We finally got going with some simple rounds on 5 bells – such a different sound and feel to the with the new tenor taking the peal to a major key!

The treble bell still needs a bit of adjustment to its frame position; then the pulley box, slider and stay need fitting, before the rope can be put in place and we can have our full peal of six. It doesn’t feel like there is much left to do. It was planned and hoped that we would be ringing them by Christmas this year, but disappointingly, some last minute hitches look likely to prevent the final few tasks from being carried out.

Good things come to those who wait..!

(* for more details, see BellBoard)

Building the new Treble’s pit

Saturday saw another step towards the completion of our augmentation project. Our volunteers spent a full day in the tower with the intention of getting the bells up into their pits. Unfortunately, a bit of a hiccup in the repair of the broken frame side meant that it wasn’t ready for the weekend, so the amount of work that could be done was limited.

First, attention was given to the new treble pit. A new section of beam was to be installed first. A section of wall was removed to allow the beam to be anchored into the brickwork. As we did so, it revealed the end of a beam running the full width of the tower. During the clean down and restoration of the frame, we could not find any evidence of paint or preservation of the steel work, so considered that there probably hadn’t been any! However, the reveal of the beautifully preserved beam end, which has been protected from the weather embedded in the wall for 65 years, showed that the beams at least were painted up with black paint.

The newly painted red section of beam contrasts with the preserved black section inside the wall.

The newly painted red section of beam contrasts with the preserved black section inside the wall.

The new beam section was put in place and propped up with with wood and the brand new frame side (which was hoisted up in June!) could now finally be put in place. Once secured, the new treble was lifted in to its new home and bolted in place. The hole in the wall was then filled with concrete to complete the installation of the beam. There are still some braces to be installed around the new treble area to reinforce the the frame and control the additional forces that will be exerted when the bells are rung full circle.

Next, attention was turned to the new heavy tenor. The tenor’s pit was already in place, so the operation was much more straightforward. Additional acrow props were put in place underneath the lifting beam to reduce the span of the load. The tenor slowly made its way up to the bell-chamber and a second chain block helped to manoeuvre it to its new home at the back of the tower.

There are still two bells in the intermediate chamber waiting to be hoisted up, but it’s exciting to see that two thirds of the bells are now more or less in their final positions!