Wedding Celebrations with Six Bells

History was made in Ab Kettleby this afternoon, when six bells rang out in celebration of Iva and Ben’s wedding.

It’s the first time our peal of six bells have performed the task – our last wedding was in November 2014, prior to augmentation, with just the original three.

Today’s band comprised entirely of ringers from Ab Kettleby, who (apart from the tower captain) have all been taught to ring in the last 3 years.

Just before 1pm, the first few notes of the Wedding March sounded, the adrenaline and excitement rose… “Look To… Treble’s Going… Treble’s Gone!” and we were off! The rounds were excellent from the start (we had been practising!!) and it sounded amazing alongside the organ in the church.

Congratulations Iva and Ben – we all wish you a lifetime of happiness together, and we’re very proud to have been able to help you celebrate today.

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!

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.

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.

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!

Bell Casting

15 parishioners (including 6 Ab Kettleby ringers), 14 school children, and 6 other special guests toured the John Taylor & Co Bell foundry in Loughborough today, all leading up to witnessing the casting of our two new bells.

Our tour guide for the day was George Dawson, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience for anything you could possible want to know about bells - ringing, making, maintenance, etc. George's website can be found at http://georgedawson.homestead.com/.

George met us all in the Taylor's Museum and took us through to the bell room just behind the museum. The room hosts a collection of bells from various different founders. The children were invited to take a hammer and strike each of the bells in turn. The differences in sound were explained and the concept of bell tuning was introduced. Taylor's had discovered that a bell has 5 notes made by different parts of the bell. Each part of the bell can then be tuned individually to provide the correct harmonic.

John Taylor Bell Foundry Workshops

From the museum we went over the road to the workshops, where our new/old tenor (see previous article 'Augmentation Progress') was waiting for us, prompting much discussion and excitement!

Ab Kettleby's New Tenor

 

A walk through the workshops to the woodshop and we were given an explanation of the different woods used in a bell tower - oak for the wheel spokes, ash for the wheel's soulplate and shroud because of its flexibility. Ash is also used for the bell stays.

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From there through to the rope-shop where Paul makes new bell ropes from hemp, polyester and wool. He explained that polyester is used for the upper part of the rope as it isn't handled. The tail end is hemp which is much softer on the hands than polyester would be. Sallies are made from wool - which surprised a couple of our ringers. (Quite what they thought it was made of is somewhat baffling!)

On our way to the tuning shop, we stopped at a bell rigged up in the workshop for ringing, albeit without a rope. George demonstrated the mechanics of a bell being rung up, rung full-circle and then rung down again. A difficult thing to explain to people without being in the bell chamber when it's happening, so to have a rig that can people can easily see really helps to explain the mechanics.

Inside the tuning shop we saw the giant lathes used for turning and filing the bells in order to create a correctly tuned bell. George demonstrated the sound properties of different bell materials, which clearly explained why bells are made from copper and tin!

On the way back through the workshop, we arranged for our new/old tenor bell to be hoisted up into the air for a fantastic photo opportunity!

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By now it was nearly time for the casting, so we all made our way back to the museum and up the spiral stairs to the foundry viewing gallery. There was a slight smokey haze, and a strong smell of hot metal - as you might well expect from a metal foundry, with furnaces melting metal ready for casting! The temperature of the metal was checked, and a bright stream of molten metal was poured out of the furnace into the waiting crucible.

Molten metal pouring into crucible

This was hoisted up and the dross floating on the top of the molten metal skimmed off onto the floor. At this point, Rev Sue said a few words and blessed the casting of the new bells; accompanied by some singing!

Rev Sue Blesses the Bell Casting

The crucible was then turned and the molten metal carefully poured into the waiting bell moulds! First the new treble

Casting the New Treble

And then the new number 2

Casting Number 2

Two new bells were born!

New Treble

New 2nd

Once the area had been made safe, we were invited down from the gallery to have a closer look at the bells and the casting, and to ask some questions of the bell founders themselves.

Finally, we had booked the foundry tower for some ringing after the casting, so those that could ring, and those interested in watching made our way to the foundry tower. It's a very light set of bells, so our inexperienced ringers were given the opportunity to try it out on their own first, before joining in with some rounds.

All in all a fantastic afternoon - a very interesting tour cumulating in the casting of the two new bells for Ab Kettleby. Two bells that will outlive all of those who witnessed it and should last for several centuries.

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Leicester Diocesan Guild Quarterly Social

On Saturday evening (17th January), Ab Kettleby played joint host to the Leicester Diocesan Guild’s Quarterly Social event, with Long Clawson. (It was Melton District’s turn to host!) A contingent of 5 ringers from Ab Kettleby went over to neighbouring Long Clawson at 6pm and met with 30-40 ringers from all around the county. After an hour’s ringing of everything from rounds and call-changes to Yorkshire Surprise and Cambridge at Clawson, everyone made their way to Ab Kettleby to take advantage of a last opportunity ring our 3-bells as a 3! Cue methods such as Plain-Hunt Singles and Stedman Singles..!

By 8pm we had all made our way to the Sugar Loaf for a welcome drink and splendid buffet. Various donations of chocolate, wine and beer had been given as raffle prizes; cue frantic selling of raffle tickets to both bell-ringers and local villagers! We managed to raise £145 for the augmentation fund – and caused a bit of confusion in the process by using three books of raffle tickets, coloured Dark Green, Light Green and White!!

Watch our Bells Being Cast

 

The Tenor

The bell-ringers in Ab Kettleby are very keen to get three more bells into St James’ church, to add to the existing three. We are therefore looking forward, with some considerable excitement, to the casting of two brand new bells for our tower which will take place in February!

We have a very limited number of spaces to watch history literally being made as the new bells for Ab Kettleby will be cast at John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry in Loughborough on Thursday 5th February 1:30 pm. Tickets are £10 each, on a first-come-first-served basis.

To reserve your place on this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, drop us a line via the contact us page, making sure you include your phone number and email address.