The lockdown months when there was no ringing was an opportunity for a thorough check of the state of St Mary’s bells.
We asked the bellhangers Whites of Appleton to inspect and carry out routine maintenance, rather like an MOT.
The engineer checked every bolt. The frame was secure, but most fittings, especially timber related ones such as the wheels, were a bit loose. This is normal, and occurs due to wood swelling and contracting with changes in weather. These were all tightened. A runner board stop nut is missing: this secures a piece of wood that stops the bell swinging too far. Gravity and the tight fit of the bolt mean this is not critical but we will replace it.
The main problem highlighted is with the securing of the clappers into the bells. The clapper hangs from the staple inside the bell, and the stable is bolted through the top of the bell. All the clapper staple bolts were loose and the staples misaligned. All but the 6th were realigned and tightened. The thread of the 6th is corroded and/or the thread damaged.
All the clapper bushes, which ensure the clappers swing only in the plane of the bell’s swing, are worn allowing excessive side-play. We have asked Whites for a quote to rebush the clapper assemblies. This requires removing the clappers from the bells, working on them for a day or so in their workshop and reinstalling them. The clapper staple bolts would be cleaned and the 6th repaired as part of this process.
Whites’ final comment is that the bell chamber is dirty. This is not only unpleasant when doing maintenance, but dirt also works its way into bearings and ropes shortening their lives. We will organise a thorough cleaning of the bell and clock chambers.
The maintenance performed and planned will help ensure the bells remain safe.
Martin Crick, Ringing Master
Almost all the clappers need tightening