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The Bells rang out for Easter Day!!!

We are delighted that we have the bells back in the tower and working and that we rang them on Easter morning

The installation and adjustment of the bells took place between 7 and 11 April, not without a few little problems as each of the bell installations had to be tailored to fit their ancient wooden frame. We had brackets the wrong shape and bolts that were too short but by the end of the week all of the minor snags had been sorted. We had a test ringing of all 8 of the bells on Friday 11 April at about 6.00pm and were very pleased with both the sound and the feel of the bells. We rang the bells for the 10.15 Palm Sunday service.

The clock strike is also back – but now it is done by an electrical striker and the time is accurate as it is controlled by a satellite timing system.
Likewise the sanctus bell is now rung by an electrical striker and is operated by a small remote control unit from in the church – no more heaving on a rope in the corner by the pulpit.

The tower captain, Terry Davies, and all of the ringers can now return to their weekly routine of practice nights on Fridays and ringing for  Sunday morning services and weddings. We are very pleased with the improved sound of the bells and hope that you will all enjoy them too.

Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Tower Captain and all of the bell-ringers

Tower Captains Report - Annual Church Meeting, Tuesday 8th April 2014

I thought it might be perhaps interesting and informative for readers of the Church Magazine to have the opportunity to read my report to the Annual Church meeting:

As in 2012, we have rung for all of the Sunday morning 10.15am services and several weddings and we also rang half-muffled for the funeral of Mrs Estelle Gilbert, the mother of two of our former bellringers (Stephen and Robin Gilbert).

Our Friday night practice is usually well-attended with our own ringers and regular visitors from Baschurch (Paul and Edwina) and Whitchurch (Malcolm and Ann)

It is essential to have a friendly bell tower, where newcomers are welcomed, where every member of the team is given respect and worth for who they  are - for without this considerate attitude, any band is unlikely to continue other than in the short term.

Why are Church bells rung for a Sunday Service ? It is to call people to worship and to remind people, if any reminder was needed that God exists.  The sound of its bells may be the only message a church gives to many of its parishioners.  The service a ringer gives to his or her church can be demanding on time and commitment but can be equally rewarding because of the reason for the bells being rung and for the part bells make to the life of the church.

I have been Tower Captain and Saint Mary’s since Mr Arnold Whitehead retired in 1976. I like to think I have done the best I could to ensure that the bells continued to ring on a regular basis.

There are other activities I could have done, especially on Friday night, but I considered it important as Tower Captain to show dedication and commitment by attending practices regularly. I like to think my record is something of which I can be proud and I like to think that I continued the good example of a Tower Captain set by Mr  Whitehead over a period of 32 years (1944 to 1976).

I am also proud of the fact that since 1976 apart from the cost of lighting and heating in the tower, there has not been a cost on this church for the bells. All minor maintenance costs and replacement of ropes have been paid for by fund raising by the bell ringers and generous donations from the people of Ellesmere (mainly parishioners).

We are fortunate that we continue to have at this church a very dedicated team of bellringers. I hope that ringing Saint Mary’s may continue for a long time - certainly into the foreseeable future.

The restoration of the bells and associated equipment will help to make that aid easier to achieve by making the bells easier to ring and hopefully it will leave a lasting legacy of which we can all be proud.

I thank Peter Leigh and Rodney Upton for taking the lead in this important project.  An important and significant contribution was also made by other bellringers - Ray Purcell, Nick Easthop and myself from Ellesmere, Peter Woollham from Oswestry, Alan Glover from Shrewsbury and finally Greg          Davies (a former bellringer and my nephew) from Penley.

Terry Davies, Tower Captain

The bells are back!

The bells are backPhotograph courtesy of the Shropshire StarThe bells returned to Ellesmere on 24 March and with the help of Andrew and Patrick Gilman (and their tractor) we moved them up into the church. From there they have been hoisted back into the bell chamber and fixed in their positions in the bell frame.

Before this we completed the cleaning of the tower and the bell engineer fitted heavy metal plates into the bell frame so that the bearings have a secure, level base to sit on.

Over the weekend before the bells returned we had a very successful abseiling event when many people – including the vicar – went up to the ringing chamber and abseiled into the church, a drop of about 40 feet. Now the bells are back in place the trap door is closed so I am afraid there will be no more abseiling!

Although the bells are back in position there is still a lot of work to fit the rest of the equipment, wheels, sliders, pulleys  - the set up is quite  complicated and all the parts must all be accurately placed for the bells to ring properly. We expect all this to be completed so that we shall be able to ring at Easter.

We are looking forward to having our bells back and are eagerly waiting to hear them now that they have been tuned.

Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Bell Ringers

Latest News From The Bell Project

The bells have been to Whitechapel Bell Foundry and have been tuned. It is reported that they now sound far better than before! With that phase completed, they were transported to Dorset during the first week of February where they are now being fitted with their new headstocks and other accessories.

Despite the terrible weather suffered during February on the south coast, Nicholson Engineering have not been flooded and have continued to run smoothly. The new headstocks and wheels are now being produced and the project is still on schedule. It is planned that the bells will return to Ellesmere on 24 March and the intention remains to re-install them in time to have them ringing by Easter. In the mean time the tower has been cleaned, starting in the bell chamber and working down to the ringing chamber. Countless bags of dust, twigs, and rubbish that have been accumulating for hundreds of years have been removed. Despite clearing the dirt away we have not found any treasure hidden under the floor boards.

By the time the bells return we will have completed the cleaning, whitewashed the clock chamber walls, and repaired the floors in the bell chamber and clock chamber. The bell frame is to be checked and all the braces tightened.

Once the bells are back there will still be work to do - the ringing chamber ceiling, which was not in good condition before we started, will need some work, and the hand rail up the stairs and the shutters in the bell chamber have still to be completed. When the bells are
ringing again it is expected that large numbers of bell ringers will want to "have a go" to find out what difference all this work has made both to their sound and to the ease of ringing them. So you can expect to hear the bells frequently, making up for the recent four months of silence. Furthermore, when the tower is back in a presentable and safe state there will be another Tower open day so that you can come and see what has been done. In the meantime, Alfie Digby and some of the pupils from Lakelands School are raising funds for a trip to Morocco by organising abseiling down the tower. While the bells are away and the trap doors in the tower are accessible it is the ideal, in fact probably the only, time that they can do this. The aim will be to abseil from the ringing chamber into the church - an abseil inside the tower! They will be giving more details nearer to the time. Why not give it a go?

Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Bell Ringers

More News From The Bell Project

The bells have gone for re-tuning and refurbishment.

When ringing stopped after the service on Sunday 24 November, the bell ringers went into a fortnight of hectic activity to prepare the bells and the tower for the removal of the bells on 9 December. On the Monday morning an engineer from Smiths of Derby came to stop the clock and remove parts that would be in the way. After that we started the preparation. The ropes, clappers and wheels were removed from the bells. The heavy floor boards under the tenor bell were lowered into the clock chamber, opening up the trap door for the bells to be lowered through. The floor boards were lifted to open the trap door from the Clock Chamber to the Ringing Chamber. The large trap door in the Ringing Chamber was lifted, not without considerable effort involving 5 men and a scaffolding pole, which opened up the drop of about 40 feet into the middle of the church.

We then constructed a safety barrier round the hole and another to guard the hole in the Clock Chamber. From the evidence we found in opening up theses hole it would seem that the bells had not been removed from the tower since the last one was installed in 1799 - any work done on them, and there is evidence that quite a lot of repairs and refurbishment has been done, must have been done in situ, with the trap doors partly opened to allow new wheels, headstocks etc to be hoisted up. All was ready for the removal of the bells.

On Monday 9 December the engineer from Nicholson Engineering, who are carrying out the refurbishment work, arrived with a large van full of ladders, ropes, hoists, pallets and a quantity of boards to protect the church floor. We were joined by 3 more volunteers and the task of taking the heavy chain hoists up the tower started. The workers put in a great deal of effort and by mid morning we were ready to move the first and biggest bell. As the trap doors are not in line the process involve lowering the bell on one chain hoist into the Clock Chamber until it almost reached the floor them attaching an¬other chain hoist and by careful letting down one and taking up the other we could move the bell over the next hole. This had to be repeated in the Ringing Chamber to line up the bell for its descent into the church. It was a spectacular sight with a bell weighing over 1 ton hanging on a single chain in the middle of the church.

When the bell reached the floor it was put onto a pallet and wheeled to the back of the church. This process was repeated 3 more times on Monday and 4 times on Tuesday morning, with the time taken to get the bells from top to bottom speeding up each time. With the bells at ground level we could remove the headstocks, stays and bearings leaving the bare bells sitting on their pallets.

By the end of Tuesday the job was complete and the bells were left in the back of the church. On the Thursday morning we again assembled and wheeled the bells down to the gate by the Red Lion. Remember that the biggest weighs over 1 ton so the method to get down the hill involve one man controlling the trolley and 6 more hanging onto ropes to act as brakes. The lorry arrived, the bells were loaded and were driven away to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London for tuning before they are transferred to Nicholson's works in Dorset for the rest of the refurbishment. It was commented that the last time the bells were outside the Red Lion they would have been on a horse and cart over 200 years ago. We expect them to return before Easter, in the mean time we still have some work - and a lot of cleaning - to do in the tower before they come back.

Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Bell Ringers