In 1932 the bells were retuned,
rehung on ball bearings and fitted with new clappers by Mears & Stainbank. In 1957 and
again in 1989 the clappers were repaired. As part of the 1989 work all the wheels, which
were over 100 years old and starting to fall apart at the slightest provocation, were
replaced. Although Whitechapel did the rebushing and made the new wheels, all local site
work was carried out by the ringers themselves.
In November 1989 fire destroyed
all but the walls of the choir and nave, but we were very fortunate that the flames did
not reach the tower and the bells were unharmed. It was a very memorable occasion when we
rang out on the day after the blaze, with the odd wisps of smoke still showing, and with
the acrid smell of burnt timber all around.
By early 2003 the old six were
getting difficult to handle, and they werent that melodious either. They had been
around for over 120 years and their fittings had been in use for over 70 years. The bells,
we felt, should be OK for quite a while yet, but something had to be done about the
fittings, which really were past their sell-by date and needed replacing. If some repair
work was not done fairly soon the bells would get more and more difficult to ring (the
teaching of beginners was already not as easy as we would have liked) and it could be that
all ringing might eventually have to cease. We could live with the ancient frame
they knew how to build bellframes in those days, although it now would need extra
tierods to make it more rigid.
At the same time, and this was the
really exciting bit, we decided to add two new bells to give St Martins a full
octave for the first time. After all, we originally had had four bells, and six from 1730,
so we figured it must be time to acquire a real eight in 2003. While we were on this
spending spree we decided that we might as well go the whole hog and retune the old six
too. However, new bells and fittings dont come specially cheaply, and the full cost
of the operation was likely to be around £57,000.
So where did all the money come from? Well, the KCACR, in
addition to providing training for ringers in Kent, has a very healthy bell restoration
fund and agreed to make a grant of some £4,000 towards the project. But the Association
doesnt only help financially it has a very keen group of volunteers (one a
Brasted ringer) who help the bell foundry by taking the bells out of the tower and by
assisting the foundrys staff with the assembly of the new installation. This would
probably save us over £6,000. Durtnells, a local building firm founded in 1591,
only 21 years after Whitechapel, agreed to transport the bells for free, saving another
£600. (It was quite reassuring that two companies involved with our work had between them
nearly 900 years experience.) By Easter 2003 we already had promises of funding from
people who rang at Brasted indeed one regular ringing visitors family offered
to pay for one of the new bells, and a local ringer gave another £5,000. So it came about
that by the middle of 2003 we had just over £26,000 either in the kitty (raised by
various means, including an open day, a talk on ringing, cake stalls, sponsored ringing, a
barbecue and personal donations) or in the form of promises. All very encouraging stuff,
but still a long way off the target.
An article in the Christmas edition of the RW for 2004 (pages
1228/9) gives an impression of our next big fundraising effort, a country garden fair
which raised over £5000 in one afternoon. This was followed a few weeks later by a very
successful silent auction, where an attendance of under 100 folk bought goodies to the
value of nearly £4000. One thing we hadnt foreseen was the knock-on effect of the
events. Arising from these, two more people came forward with the offer of a bell. As we
were only adding two new ones, the second offer had to be diverted to the new frames,
which was an entirely satisfactory solution. Many, many individuals of greater or lesser
means gave us donations, and we were really grateful to them all. The Central Council Bell
Resoration Fund made us a grant, as did the Colyer-Fergusson Trust. Add to this little lot
the profit on Christmas card sales at £1000 and cake stalls at £1200, and were in
By now it seemed to be downhill all the way, except that the
campaign chairman spent a few months carefully tending a spreadsheet and watching the
expenditure needed and the cash available gently converging. The order was placed, the
installation of the steelwork to carry the new frames was organised, and all we had to do
was wait for the jobs to be scheduled. Some of the locals dismantled all the fittings in
early February this year and the KCACR BRF gang turned up the following week to take the
bells out. A party visited Whitechapel in March to see the casting of the new trebles, and
all eight came back to Brasted in the first week in May, preceded by the new frame.
Hanging a few bells in an existing
frame and adding a couple more pits to accommodate two new bells sounds a pretty simple
task: having been what was charmingly described as the fit, able-bodied assistance
to the bellhangers on the Brasted project for five weeks I can assure readers that this
assumption is naïve in the extreme! On 19 April, the bells still being at Whitechapel,
the first operation was to lift and install the steelwork for the new frame. We were
grateful for the help of a ringer from a neighbouring village for part of this operation,
which involved hauling around half a ton of steel 60 feet up the tower, aligning it in the
holes already cut in the walls by the builders, and tightening up some 200 very large nuts
and bolts big boys Meccano, it was dubbed by some wag. Just multiply your old
4BAs by a factor of around 8 and you have an idea of what was involved. Once all this was
done, the builders came back and filled in the holes and secured the steels for us. We
later discovered that theyd not made an especially good job of clearing up the
chunks of stone excavated from the holes, and we are still having the odd descent of
rubble as the bells are rung.
On 2 May, work started in earnest on preparing the old frame
for the new fittings, with twelve new slots being cut into the timber to house the new
bearing plates (were talking about chiselling oak to a depth of about an inch and
about 2 by 9 inches in area, so this is no mean feat). Everything has to be absolutely
level in every direction, of course. While this was going on, the 40 new tierods to secure
the frame were being installed. These rods are around 5 feet long and about three-quarters
of an inch in diameter and seemingly weigh a ton apiece (slight poetic licence here, but
by the time one gets to tierod number 37 or so, a little latitude is permissible).
Eventually most, but by no means
all, of the preparatory work was done, and the bells returned from Whitechapel on 9 May.
Lifting them up to the bellchamber was a fairly slow process, governed to a great extent
by the amount of room there was to manoeuvre each bell once it reached the top. For
instance five and six, being in the new frames, had to be shoehorned into position before
completion of their frames could begin. The next couple of weeks were spent hanging the
bells and aligning bearings etc this had to be done in conjunction with frame
tightening using the new tierods, which caused a few headaches at times. Then came all
those unexciting but essential niceties like pulleys, stays and sliders, which help to
make ringing so much easier, but do take a devil of a time to fit.
However, despite your scribe
becoming a grandfather, attending the Central Council meeting, and generally being a pain
to everyone, all was declared OK for a tryout on 2 June, followed by our first 8-bell
practice the following evening. The dedication 12 June was attended by a full congregation
of parishioners and ringers from near and far, and all who took part in the ringing on
that morning felt that the job had been a great success, with both the go and the sound of
the bells being a more than somewhat improvement on the previous installation.
Saying a mere thank you
to all those involved with this project over the past two and a half years seems a bit
inadequate, but thank you all the same.
The first quarter on the eight
included many people whod made a substantial contribution to the fundraising
Kent. 2 Oct, 1260 Grandsire Triples: Annie Brook (first on 8) 1,
Tessa Worthington 2, Astrid Fairclough 3, Eric Roughley 4, Bobbie Fairclough (first on 8
inside) 5, Catherine Lewis (C) 6, Anthony Leeves 7, Frank Lewis 8.
First quarter on the newly augmented 8.
Wedding compliment to David Arnold and Nicola Murkin, daughter of Patricia and mother of
Ella, both Brasted ringers. The band would also like to associate the ringing with Bob
Sherlock, retired Tower Captain.
By the way, for
those interested in such things, the tenor now weighs in at a rather slimmer
9-2-4 and its note is G flat. And, yes, were still widdershins and proud of it.