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That's cool!

Near the end of the last century, in early 1999, the ringers asked the PCC to approve a major project to restore the bells and improve the physical environment in the tower. The PCC decided to include it as part of the much bigger Celebrating Community project, alongside building the Annex replacement (what we now know as The Cornerstone) and developing the churchyard into a community resource.

The two halves of the tower project were very different. Bell restoration is a ‘once a century’ experience for an individual church but it is more or less routine for the bell hanging trade. Our needs were similar to the work on many other bell installations and not very controversial.

The environmental need was much more specific to our tower, with fewer obvious precedents to follow. Potential solutions would probably affect the historic fabric, and to work out what was practical we needed to consult contractors who did not routinely work in churches.

Approval for the environmental work was going to be harder than for the bell work, so in November 2003 when we had a provisional start date for the bell hangers the project was split into two phases. The bells came out a few weeks after The Cornerstone opened in summer 2004 and were back by October. We imagined the other work could take a couple more years but it turned out to be much longer.

In 2016, having jumped all the conservation hurdles, what seemed an acceptable solution – a glass screen behind the gallery archway and an air conditioning unit – was only half approved. The screen was installed that summer but we had to produce more evidence of the need for cooling.

That was a blow because although the screen solved the problems of excessive temperature during the heating season (and not being able to hear the bells during music rehearsals) it made the summer over heating worse by enclosing the space.

But with sensors to monitor temperature and humidity already in place it was easy to measure not just how hot it got, but how often, and how it changed during a ringing session. All the hard work paid off – the letter granting the faculty commended the ‘admirably clear and full petition’.

The system was installed in October, with the work jointly funded by donations from the ringers and the residue from Celebrating Community.

Like most modern systems it can run in reverse to heat the room in cold weather, which uses less electricity than a normal electric heater would.

It is ironic that installation finally came at a time when most activity in the tower is prevented by CoViD restrictions, but when ringing does return to normal it will be easier to focus on the quality of the ringing without feeling hot and sweaty.

It may also be symbolic that the long tail of the Celebrating Community project ended just as we all move into our next community focused project with SpaceForAll. For more information see: 

John Harrison (October 2020) 


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