Thursday, 17 February 2011

News - Famous bells to be replaced in historic Shelford church

ONE of them dates from as long ago as the 14th Century, the other from the late 1400s to early 1500s.
But after centuries of ringing, two of the county's oldest church bells are finally in need of replacement.
This is the task facing the staff of the venerable Church of St Peter and St Paul in Shelford, near Radcliffe-on-Trent.

The two bells, made of bronze, copper and tin, weigh more than half a ton between them. 

The large tenor bell was made by the Mellours family of Nottingham between 1472 and 1508 while the other, known to bell-ringers as a third, was forged in around 1350.

Both are inscribed with Latin letters and, so far as anyone can tell, have been hanging in the church's Western Tower since they were made.

They have been rung to mark Sunday services, weddings, funerals and other special occasions throughout the years.

Now, they will be replaced by two comparatively new bells, which were made in the 1950s.

"When the clapper strikes it makes an indentation, and although you can turn the bells every few years the indentations are affecting the tone of the bells," said church warden Christine Mills-Kennedy, who comes from a family of Notts church bell ringers.

"The third bell is now in danger of cracking and the tenor bell doesn't have a very good tone."

Although both of the old bells are being retained for lighter uses, they still have to be removed from the church tower so that the new ones can take over their role.

This difficult task is being handled for free by Mrs Mills-Kennedy's son Andrew, who works for one of Britain's few remaining bell foundries, John Taylor and Co, of Loughborough.

The plan is to use block-and-tackle gear to lower the bells, and the heavy metal headstocks they are bolted to, through a trapdoor in the floor of the bell room.

They will then be lowered through a second trapdoor in the floor beneath. At this point, the bells will be dangling over the church's polished French organ, but must somehow be safely diverted to the floor.
"I'm very happy for the church and the village," said the Reverend Graeme Anderson, priest in charge at St Peter and St Paul.
But will anybody in the village hear an improved sound when the two new bells are ringing out?
"If you have a musical ear you will notice a difference," said Mrs Mills-Kennedy.

As well as its ancient bells, Shelford's church is well known for many historical associations, including an incident in the English Civil War when Royalist soldiers who barricaded themselves in the bell tower were smoked out by Parliamentarians.

Arthur Mee described the church as beautiful and "rich in fame" in his King's England guide to Nottinghamshire.

The old bells will be coming out in the next month or so. They are staying in the tower but are being moved to the side for other duties. The small third bell will be used occasionally as a sanctus bell for special services while the tenor will be rigged up to the tower clock and used to sound the hour.

The new bells are costing about £10,000, met by parish fundraising and existing church funds.

The two new bells will both be inscribed with the names of former Shelford residents.

The tenor will be named Betty in honour of Betty Cheetham MBE, the former parish councillor who gave years of service to the community and died in 2009.

The smaller bell will be inscribed with the name of Mrs Mills-Kennedy's late husband Brian. He is buried in the church graveyard, just yards from the tower where he helped ring out sound across Shelford. His headstone is in the shape of a bell.


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