St Marys bell tower
St Marys bell tower
Article & photos by John Pearson, the Walkern Journal, April 2007
If, like me, you take pleasure in listening to the peal of our church bells I am sure you will have enjoyed reading last month?s informative article on the Bells of St Mary?s. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea if I could photograph the bells in the church tower. So one Saturday morning I was invited by Chris Carter and his son Matthew to go up the tower as they were going to carry out some routine maintenance.
The dedication of the bell ringers extends to more than practice on Friday and ringing for the Sunday service; the bells, ropes and fittings need a good deal of attention and servicing if they are to ring smoothly. This involves scaling the tower for regular inspections of the bells and bell frame which is housed on the second floor.
So it was that I ascended the first ladder some 30 feet to the first floor. On the first floor is the clock chamber with its grand looking clock mechanism, a three-train, weight-driven, turret clock manufactured by William Potts of Leeds, and installed in 1905. It used to need hand winding and weights re-setting every two to three days, but two years ago it was converted to an automatic winding system. The clock chimes the quarters and hours using the bells numbered 2 through 6.
After marvelling at the clock mechanism it was onwards and upwards another 16 feet to the second floor and the bell chamber. Quite a struggle at the top to get in to the bell chamber as the six bells, their rope wheels and the frame that supports them occupy a considerable amount of room. Chris and Matthew have become quite adept at snaking their way both up and over the bells and their guidance was a must to manoeuvre around the bells. Routine work involves more than I imagined. As a complete novice I had imagined that the principle of hand bell ringing applied but with the addition of a few ropes and pulleys. In fact the mechanisms are much more complex and things such as Hastings-stays, Ellacombe chime hammers and plain bearings add to the mystery of the mechanisms. Lubrication of the plain bearings, found on five of the six bells, is needed to assure smooth operation and this is a regular task for Chris and Matthew. The plain bearings reflect the bells? age as they lack any ball-bearings and, as I understand it, the bell axle is simply