Holy Trinity, Meldreth - Bells Appeal

Restoring the most rung Church bells in the world

Bells

Holy Trinity Church has a ring of eight bells, which are rung every week, to call parishioners to the services, for practice and for peals and quarter-peals. The bells are rung for many events in the life of the church, the village or the country. They have rung to mark births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths, funerals and anniversaries and to ring in the New Year. In recent years, we have rung for the birth of Prince George, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Centenary of the village school (photo right) and the start of the 2012 Olympic games.

History

The oldest bell in the tower, the tenor, was cast by Tobias Norris in 1617, almost 400 years ago, with the Latin inscription shown in the picture. In 1887 a bell was added to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, making a total of five bells. The next bell to be installed was in 1950, as a War Memorial bell, to remember the fallen of both World Wars. The two smallest bells, to complete the octave, were added in 1968

Peals

Meldreth has the highest total number of peals of any church in the world, with 2185 peals to date (April 2015). A peal is a non-stop performance, in which each bell must ring more than 5000 times. The first peal was rung here in 1938, when there were only five bells in the tower. In the years since then, many of the country's leading ringers have come to Meldreth to ring peals. Tower Captain, John Gipson, has rung 1669 peals on the bells, in a peal-ringing career lasting from 1939 until 2012. This picture shows him with the new bells in 1968.

Damage

However, the bells are now in serious need of restoration, as the fixtures and fittings are worn from years of use. In the last sixty years or so, there have almost certainly been more than 12000 hours of ringing, with each bell ringing at least 20 million times. This wear is making the bells harder to ring, making it more difficult to train young ringers. If the wear is not attended to now, more damage will be caused to the installation.

Inspection

In 2013, White's of Appleton and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (of London) were invited to inspect the bells and both submitted thorough reports on the bells and their condition, which agreed that the bells were worn and that their associated fittings were in need of replacement. Three of the bells are still hung on plain bearings, which contribute significantly to the difficulty of ringing them. The current frame for the third bell, pictured right, which is an addition to the 1937 six-bell frame, is also too weak, which could also cause damage to the bell tower.

Restoration

The plan is to rehang the existing bells in a new frame, with all the bells on the same level. The fittings will all be renewed, with new headstocks, bearings and pulleys; all the bells are to be hung on ball bearings. The tenor will be given a new canon-retaining headstock, and the other bells will all be tuned. The bells will be turned, so that the clappers strike on unworn metal (the picture to the right shows a worn part of the bell).

Notable dates

  • 1617 - oldest surviving bell cast by Tobias Norris of Stamford
  • 1885 - two bells cast by Taylor's of Loughborough
  • 1887 - bells augmented from four to five, to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee
  • 1937 - bells rehung, by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich
  • 1938 - first peal on the bells, January 15th
  • 1950 - bells augmented to six, with War Memorial bell added - first peal December 5th
  • 1968 - bells augmented to eight - first peal rung June 9th
  • 1980 - double peal of 10080 Stedman Triples
  • 1993 - 1000th peal on the bells
  • 2010 - 2000th peal on the bells

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