On the first really sunny Saturday of the Year, eleven delegates assembled in Northampton for the ART Bell Maintenance Workshop. When signing up to this extremely good value event, booking a place seemed a great idea, on the day I was wondering what had I let myself in for!
The tutor, Jennie Higson, who was the only female there, soon proved her excellent knowledge of bells and her ability to involve a group of 11 men to interact and discuss bell maintenance.
Within the group there was differing amounts of knowledge however, the common aim was to ensure what we were already doing within our home towers was correct and what else should we be checking?
We started off with Health and Safety, discussing the Golden Rules and agreeing that when working in the belfry we want this to be undertaken as safely as possible to prevent injury to ourselves and to other; make common sense really!
The CCCBR risk assessment tool was explained, grading the likelihood and severity of a risk to produce a risk rating. We all used this to identify the potential risks and rate them for working in a belfry, the discussions produced some excellent “good practices” being used which could be adopted to help reduce risk of accident further.
Jennie then went through the typical problems encountered on an inspection, and what we should be looking for. This included checking the bells, frames, ropes, wheels, clappers, bearings, headstocks and stays. The typical problems were identified and set the scene as to what we should be looking for during an inspection.
We also discussed maintenance schedules, identifying what should be undertaken monthly, quarterly and annually, to keep maintenance up to date.
The course included 2 tower inspections; the first was All Saints Northampton. This tower had a new frame and set of 10 bells installed in 2006 and demonstrated a tower in a very good state of maintenance and order. The second tower was just down the road at St Peters Northampton. This ring of 8 was initially installed in 1734 into a wooden frame. The bells were re-hung on the same frame but, with new fittings in 1928. The bearings were replaced, clappers re-bushed, new pulleys installed and the frame bolts tightened in 2003.
This church is looked after by The Churches Conservation Trust. The inspection here took considerably longer with numerous items identified by the group.
The day was extremely good, providing good sensible advice to go away with. It also identified that you are not alone, there are other ringers to help and offer advice and most importantly there are times when you need to consult the professional bell hanger / foundry for advice as well as undertaking certain works in your Tower.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend attending this workshop regardless of your experience, I think everybody would learn new things to help maintain our bells.