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What is high above us and bright blue? If you want a clue, a month ago it was black, rusty and covered in dirt. If you’ve ever visited the bell chamber, you probably hardly noticed the frame in which the bells hang, but it plays a vital role. With a couple of tons of metal swinging around it has to be strong and well anchored.
Bell frames are made of timber or metal. Ours is a rather unusual design in iron put together a bit like Meccano. It dates from the augmentation to eight bells in 1903 and with no sign of it being painted more than once, it is not surprising that it needed painting. In fact, the rolled steel beams installed in 1952 to support the Sanctus bell were in a far worse state than the main iron bell frame.
Painting the frame is no easy undertaking. All the loose rust had to be removed with wire brushes. The dust generated added to the vast amounts of dirt which had accumulated over the years and all had to be removed before we could clean the lower part of the frame. Just to add to our pleasure, we had to contend with the grease that leaks from the bearings and drips onto the frame and dirt below.
Modern technology can make cleaning jobs easy, but does it? We decided to use vacuum cleaners to shift most of the dirt, but both bags kept bursting and needed patching with sticky tape. To add to this, the church cleaner had a fault which kept tripping out all the power in the tower. It might have been quicker with brushes!
You can judge the area to be painted from the gallon and a half of paint we used. And it seemed to consist almost entirely of awkward comers and crevices, even with the fittings removed.
The paint is a hammer finish type designed for single coat use on structural steel work. The time saved justified the slightly greater cost. The paint is a rather attractive metallic blue and turns towards turquoise as it dries. It is a pity so few see it hidden away!
In all, ten ringers and friends gave between eighty and a hundred man hours to do the work, mostly over two Saturdays and the New Year Bank Holiday. We hope it lasts another eighty years.
This is the third major project the ringers have undertaken during recent years. (The others were rewiring the tower in 1982 and installing sound control in 1983). As long as we are an active band with practical skills in our midst, we are happy to do extra work on the tower fabric when required as part of our service to the Church.
We do not restrict our efforts to our own bells. Last year, half the proceeds from our barn dance went to support the restoration of St Pauls bells. This year White Waltham ringers are raising £40,000 for work on their bells so we shall support them, as well as giving again to the All Saints Restoration appeal.
The barn dance is later this year. The earliest we could get a band and a hall on the same day is March 18th. We hope as many as possible from the congregation will come along and enjoy themselves as well as helping us to raise money for these worthy causes.
John Harrison (Jan 1989)
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