On Wednesday 23rd February, a cold bright morning, about fifteen people gathered at the Church, not to view the latest traffic calming improvements or even to watch the plastic recycling lorry collect another load but to welcome the arrival of two new bells to the village. The last occasion when bells came to Swavesey was in 1755, two hundred and fifty years ago.
The arrival of the truck brought the two new bells, four pieces of bell frames, a steel girder, two bell wheels, two clappers and lifting tackle & bell hanger's tooling. All were unloaded into the church with the great help of Robert Smart and his forklift tractor.
The tools and lifting gear were raised up inside the tower by the use of a pulley block hoist. The lifting gear was then attached to the old tower roof beams and the second bell was lifted out of the frame to give a clear path to bring the steel joist up to the bell chamber, eighty feet above the ground.
Two holes in the tower wall had been made the previous week by Paul Hendry to allow the 17½ foot RSJ to be placed into position to support the new frame pieces on which the bells will be hung. The holes are to be filled with concrete to attach each side of the tower wall to the beam and so increase the strength of the tower.
A short late lunch was taken as four classes from the primary school visited to see, hear and strike the new bells. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for these children and many sensible questions were asked, such as; How heavy the bells were? How they would get up the tower? and How far it was up the tower? Several other visitors came during the day to view the bells.
The next parts to be lifted to the bell chamber were the four frame sides, which are used to support the bells. These are fabricated from steel and each section has to be precisely located to ensure the rectangle enclosure (called a pit) it is forming is exactly parallel, untwisted and is accurately level with the opposite piece. Once located, holes had to be drilled so that the frame pieces could be bolted to the RSJ beam and rechecked to ensure correct alignment.
Of the original six bells, the two smallest bells were moved from their spaces to the two new pits. This is to allow the bell ropes to fall in a circle with the bells being rung in order. Despite the two not having been moved from their pits for seventy years, once the bolts were undone they lifted easily. The bells were then located in the new pits to ensure the best ringing circle was achieved. This involved several attempts and careful measuring of the distance to the other bell ropes. The bell bearings were then securely bolted to the frame sections.
The two new bells were raised slowly up the tower on Thursday afternoon and placed into their positions. This was done by a manual hoist and took over an hour to complete.
Further work is still to be undertaken such as the installation of the bell wheels, ropes and clappers; also holes need to be cut to allow the new ropes to drop to the ground floor. The concrete fixing the beam has to harden which will take about three weeks.
We hope to be able to ring the original six bells for Easter Day services. All eight bells will not be heard until the special service on Sunday 17th April at 3.30pm when the Bishop of Ely will dedicate the new bells and they will ring out for the first time across the village.
Please do come along to the Dedication Service, which will be followed by a traditional Ringers' Tea.
For further information and to have a go at ringing, please contact Andrew Stevens, telephone: 231433 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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