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!

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.)

Work Finally Underway

Amid much delight, work has finally started on installation of the new bells and the frame to support them!

The new frame side and repaired steel work, which was taken off the frame in April, arrived back in Ab Kettleby last night along with lifting gear to raise the heavy components to the bell chamber. The lifting gear was installed, and hatches opened in the tower. Here’s the missing frame side making its way up:

Hoisting the New Frame

Hoisting the New Frame

As work has now started, it is not possible to ring the bells until the work is complete. That means no Sunday Service ringing at Ab Kettleby. We will continue a weekly practice night but at a different local tower. Keep an eye on the website/Twitter/Facebook for updates.

The next step work will be to remove the treble and second so they can be taken to the foundry to carry out the the work that is required on them. All being well, it is anticipated that the project should be complete by the beginning of August.

One Year On

SallyIt is exactly one year ago today that regular Wednesday evening ringing practice started. We’ve come a long way in 52 weeks; four of the six ‘recruits’ we started teaching that day have become efficient and competent bell ringers and form a core part of the team.

We’ve also recruited seven others along the way – some more recently than others, so there are various stages of teaching and learning going on all the time!

Of course, getting the ringers up to speed wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable assistance from three experienced ringers/teachers from neighbouring towers.

At last night’s practice session, we raised a glass in celebration of the achievements of the band, and a toast to the future and augmentation of Ab Kettleby Bells.

Cheers!

Wheel returns

Number Two Wheel

Number Two Wheel

Number two’s wheel has been refurbished and replaced. Took a bit longer than anticipated, but we’re all set for practice night, tonight!

Wheel Maintenance

This evening’s practice involved our two most advanced ‘learners’ getting to grips with call changes! Amazing effort – just two months ago, they didn’t know a tail-end from a sally! Bells at Ab Kettleby

However, we had to finish practice night a bit earlier than normal, as work is required on our number 2 bell’s wheel. Some of the shrouding was already missing when we started to ring back in June, but the ‘broken stay’ incident caused it to shed a bit more. Advice was given that the wheel ought to be looked at sooner, rather than later.

After practice tonight, we managed to remove the wheel and lower it out of the tower. Removing nuts and bolts that haven’t been touched for 64 years is not the easiest thing to do!

It is a great thing that we are so close to a bell foundry – the wheel should be back by next week!

New Stay

New Stay #2

New Stay Bell #2

The replacement stay was installed on Sunday afternoon, in plenty of time for our Wednesday night practice. It’s been fitted with a new bolt, along with the old bolt, and a lick of paint applied to Hastings toggle too.

During the installation of the new stay, we noticed that some more of the shrouding (rope guides) of the bell wheel has become detached. It was already missing a small section, but it’s going to need some attention before too long.

Broken Stay

Broken Stay Bell #2
Oh dear – we had a bit of a mishap at our practice session tonight. A broken stay on number 2 bell.

Its failure was a bit strange – but was explained when realised that the stay hasn’t completely sheared off. We heard a bit of a thud, which was put down to just a heavy bash on the stay/slider/toggle (we have Hastings stays) and the bell seemed to set without issue. It was rung again, and once again, set  – but something did look a little amiss when the bell stopped – but the rope was tied up as normal. About 30 seconds later, while we were just discussing the ringing, the stay finally succumbed and the rope disappeared.

We’ve all learnt a thing or two. Although there’s some work to be done over the next few days!

Learners Ringing in Rounds

On Wednesday 4th June, we started regular bell-ringing practice nights for the first time since the restoration of the church. Six new recruits came along, all eager to learn to ring.

In the four weeks since then, three of the original six are now able ring a bell pretty much unaided. Since we began, two of our three bells have been tied to muffle the sound from our neighbours. But last night, we we took the opportunity to take the ties and muffles off and attempt to ring some rounds!

Each learner took it in turns on their chosen bell, with two other ringers taking the other two ropes, and off we went! A significant milestone in the progress of the three ringers was achieved, and we’re all very proud of them!

It’s still going to need a bit more practice, but hopefully we will be able to ring for Sunday services in the very near future.