Bampton in Devon

Bampton in Devon

St Michael's Church: The new bell

On 28th October, 2002, the 'new' bell arrived - but this high-tech bell is designed to make no noise!

The new bell is in fact destined to be silent, and will be used to train new ringers and for practice purposes: although it will have all the 'feel' of a real bell, it will have no clapper. Instead, an electronic sensor is fitted to the wheel which is connected to a computer below, and this computer will make the correct sound as if the bell had been rung, but audible only to those in the ringing chamber.

unloading the bell

The bell arrives at the base of the tower, and there's plenty of heavy unloading to do. The bell, its wheel, and all the supporting frame must be winched to the top though trap-doors set in the various floors above.

The wheel in which the bell will be mounted. However, to get all the bits in place, two of the existing bells will have to be temporarily dismantled to make space.

The bell wheel
This girder is heavy!

Some of the supporting steelwork is massive - this beam takes four strong men to lift it.

Unloading the bell from the van needs some care - it weighs around 5cwt (which is quite a few kg!) and the ramp needs to be very strong to support it. Note that Mike (on the right) knows enough about bells to stand well clear!

Wheeling it in
Admiring the new bell

The bell is safely out of the van and we can all admire it. It is in fact an old bell which was been damaged in a foundry in 1899 and has a bad tone - this doesn't matter because it will not be having a clapper!

The bell is marked JW 1616 so it has been rung for nearly 400 years, and it made its first sounds the year that William Shakespeare died. On the other side of the bell, it is inscribed "SEARVE GOD".

Bell made in 1616
Pat gives it her approval

Pam, the Tower Captain, shows her delight in the ringers' new acquisition.

The bell needs manhandling into the vestry in order to be winched up the centre of the tower.

Miving in
The necessary steelwork

Unloading complete - all the steel-work at the side makes up the frame to support the new bell.

Before the new bell is moved up the tower, the vicar blesses it in a short ceremony.

The Vicar blesses the bell
Photo by Ken Smith

Photo by Ken Smith

On the way up! The new bell is hauled from the base of the tower up through the ringing chamber, then up through the clock chamber, and finally through the frame of the existing bells.

After a huge amount of muscle-power, huffing and puffing, and patient engineering (using a very big hammer), the new bell is mounted on its new frame above the other six bells. Where the steel beams are mortared to the walls needs to harden, so in about mid-November, the new bell will be 'rung' - but only those near the computer will 'hear' it!

Interesting point: Does anyone know the derivation of the term 'dumb-bell' in this context? We all know what they look like and what they are used for today, but why are they so named? email the answer! - see below two sources of wisdom.

The bell finally in place

According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable (probably not 100% accurate) DUMB-BELLS (1) "A corruption of dumpel or dumples (same word as "dumpling") meaning heavy weights...German and Danish..down in the dumps meaning "heavy..morose..etc."

DUMB-BELLS (2) In New College, Oxford, there is still an apparatus used for developing the muscles similar to that which sets church bells in motion. It consists of a flywheel with a weight attached and the gymnast is carried by it up and down and brings his muscles into play."

And from Oxford Etymological Dictionary:

DUMB-BELL (1) "apparatus like that for swinging a church bell, but without the bell, used for exercise or ringing practice. (2) "pair of instruments held in the hands and swung for exercise."

 

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