The Bells Are Back!

Last Tuesday saw 5 bells being delivered to St James’. The two old bells that were taken away for tuning and repair were joined by their new siblings; two brand new trebles and the tenor bell which has been relocated from Cornwall.

On Tuesday afternoon, an 18T lorry, courtesy of sponsor Brands2hands, arrived at the John Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough and loaded our five bells, along with the new wheels, stays, sliders, clappers, pulley boxes and other various fitments. The bells were put onto pallets to make transportation easier and were taken back to Brands2hands’ warehouse in Old Dalby for onward transport to Ab Kettleby by smaller vehicles during the evening.

Loading the bells

The first bells and fittings arrived in Church Lane just before 17:30 to a patiently waiting crowd of local ringers. The first three bells to arrive were the smallest bells – the two new trebles, and the existing old treble – numbers 1, 2 and 3 of the new peal. They were unloaded from the van – the tail-lift and pallet trucks making short work of the process – and transferred to the church.

Number 3 returns

A ramp had been constructed to allow the step into the church to be navigated with ease.

Before we knew it, the first three bells were in the aisle ready to be winched up.

The first three bells arrive

First up was the new number 2.


Shortly followed by the number 3.

And then the brand new treble.


These bells only made it as far as the intermediate chamber, as the frame for them still needs to be constructed or reconstructed!

The two larger bells were fetched from Old Dalby in separate vehicles; the heavy tenor arriving on a trailer. The number 4 (old number 2) was taken off the van with the tail-lift, but we needed a special piece of equipment to take the new tenor from the trailer. Fortunately, help was on hand from a local farmer and his telescopic forklift – light work was made of moving the tenor from the trailer and a good way onto the path before pallet trucks took it the rest of the way to the church.

Telescopic forklift makes light work of moving the tenor

The Tenor

The number 4 was hoisted all the way up to the second floor and placed straight into its pit.

Then it was time for the tenor – we had already established that it wouldn’t be possible for the tenor to fit through the doorway into the base of the tower, so it needed to be lifted over the screen instead. Various combinations of winch were used in various different places, along with various people pulling on strops before eventually, with the help of a “chain pull”, the tenor made its gentle descent on the other side of the screen, before being slowly hoisted up to the intermediate chamber.

Tenor doesn't fit through the door

With that it was nearly 10pm, so we called it a day and made a weary beeline for the Sugar Loaf for some well deserved refreshment.


While the frame and beams are being repaired, and tuning of the two removed bells is taking place, the bell chamber is looking a bit empty. Therefore, it’s an ideal opportunity to clear up the debris that’s been created by recent works, treat and prime the newly exposed metalwork, and prepare for a top coat of paint. Here’s the rather empty looking bell chamber

Empty Bell Chamber

Also, here is a closer view of the rust and corrosion that we’ve been faced with. This is the beam between underneath the fractured frame side that supported the current tenor. The loose surface rust has been removed, and the surface stabilised ready for priming, but the erosion is very noticeable.

Corrosion on beam

This is a bolt which held the frame side to the above beam. The frame side sits on ‘feet’ on top of the beam, so there is a gap between beam and frame side where the bolts hold everything together. Weather is, of course, able to get into the gap – the bolt clearly shows the difference between exposed and non-exposed metal work.


Treble’s going, she’s gone!

Work continued apace last night as the problem beam was removed, enabling all the heavy items to be winched down. The treble was first, shortly followed by the second, and finally the broken frame side. The beam itself had to be cut, so that has also been taken away for restoration/repair.

Treble's going

"Treble's Going" - Peter Hayward supervises as the Treble is lowered into the Ringing Chamber

The Second is lowered through the intermediate chamber

Treble and Second made it safely down

The treble and second will receive some light tuning to bring them into line with the other old and new bells. They also need new 'pads' (the section between bell and headstock) due to more weather related deterioration.


The frame side is also planned work - it was noted on a previous inspection, that the rust build up and expansion between the cast iron frame side, and the beam it sits on, had caused a fracture in the iron casting. While the bells aren't particularly heavy and leaving it in situ was, structurally, a valid option, it was felt while other bells were being removed, the opportunity to fix the frame shouldn't be neglected. Somewhat inevitably, this too also proved troublesome to dislodge. It's difficult to convey how much damage the rust has caused, but numerous nuts and bolts proved impossible to shift, the rust having effectively welded all the steel together! The trusty angle grinder was pressed into action once more.

Sparks fly as Carl from Black Cat Ironworks cuts through the rusted bolts

Sparks fly as Carl from Black Cat Ironworks cuts through the rusted bolts

Finally the bells and frame sections were hauled along the narrow paths and loaded into to the van. A heavy rain shower arrived just in time to give the treble another soaking - certainly no worse than it's seen in the tower.

Loading the Second

Loading the Second

She's gone.

She's gone.

Work In Progress

This weekend saw the last bits of the platform that was resting on the bell-frame dismantled. The platform will be restored at a higher level, thus allowing our new bells to be hung beneath it. Here’s a view of the situation in the bell chamber at the moment. The frame has been partially dismantled, and the treble is waiting to be lowered once the problem beam underneath has been removed.





Augmentation work update

A quick update on augmentation progress – our existing bells have now been dismantled, ready to be removed for the work that’s needed on them, and our new bells are completed and ready at the foundry doors to be shipped out to us!

However, the frame isn’t quite ready for them yet. A section needs to be removed to allow the bells to taken out and put back again. Unfortunately, the bells are just a bit too big to fit through the gap without partially dismantling the frame. Which is where a significant problem has been encountered – 50 years of weather in the spire has taken its toll on the bell frame, and the piece we need to remove has borne the brunt of the leaks over the years. The rust means that a section of RSJ is proving incredibly difficult to take out, and thus far has thwarted attempts to remove the existing treble.


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.


Bell Tuning and Augmentation Progress

It has been a couple of months since the last update on the progress of the augmentation project. Slowly but surely progress is being made. Several volunteers have spent many hours in the bell chamber preparing and painting the frame - we've just got to put a final top coat on.

Meanwhile, at the foundry, our three additional bells underwent tuning in the foundry a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the new treble on the tuning lathe.



Treble Tuning

New number 2 after tuning

Number 2

And the new/old tenor upturned and ready to be tuned.


It is expected that these bells will be ready for installation by the end of June. The extra steel work for the frame and 'observation platform' has also now been completed and is ready to be shipped out to us for installation.

As part of the augmentation work, our existing three bells are going to be removed from the tower, as there needs to be a little bit of work carried out on them and the existing frame before we can get the new bells in place.

Photographs taken at the John Taylor Bell Foundry, Loughborough, courtesy of Nicholas Parr 

News from the Foundry

Photograph courtesy of John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry

Photograph courtesy of John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry

We’ve just received an update from the foundry on the state of our bells – they have now been moved to the tuning shop, but are waiting in bit of a queue. There are 8 other bells to be tuned first, so it is not expected that our bells will be looked at until just after Easter. The new headstocks have all been cast and are just waiting for their gudgeons to be fitted. The new section of frame has also been cast and will be machined to size very soon.

Meanwhile, back in St James’ preparation work continues – the frame has been receiving some attention in the form of brushing/rubbing down while we get ready to paint it. Also the ‘viewing platform’ which was installed directly onto the bell frame during the church restoration, has now been largely dismantled ready to be lifted into its new higher position to allow the new bells in.