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Churchdown Bells Restoration Project

Project Description

     St Bartholomew's Church, Churchdown dates from the late 12th century, although there  was probably an earlier church on the same site.  The present church tower was built in 1601.  It is the only Grade One Listed Building in the village, and its position on the top of Chosen Hill dominates the local landscape.      The project is for the refurbishment of the Church's bells, which are now in need of major work.  Without this work the bells will continue to become yet more demanding to ring, which means that new learners are discouraged by the difficulties associated with the current poor condition of the bells.  Should this project go ahead, the heritage of the bells of St Bartholomew's will be much better assured than at present.  The object is to pass on to future generations a first class ring of six bells that are easy to ring and provide a wonderful sound to the village and the surrounding area.      The proposal is to retain the current Treble Bell (cast in 1933 by Gillett & Johnston) as the Second Bell in a ring of six bells.  Five new bells will be installed, these will be cast to the same “Gillett & Johnston” profile as the existing Treble to make all of the bells tonally compatible.      New fittings and headstocks will be installed throughout.  The new Tenor will weigh about 9cwt 1qr 14lb (about 476kg) in comparison with the existing Tenor weight of 11cwt 2qr 0lb (about 584kg).  This reduction in weight, in combination with a much lighter headstock, will make it much easier to ring and require less physical strength.  This will mean that all of the bells will be more accessible to the full range of bell ringers, and not limit the heavier bells to those with more physical strength and / or skill.  The reduction in total bell weight will also reduce the lateral loading applied to the tower, which will be beneficial in the long term.      The existing oak bell frame, built by James E Jacques of Gloucester in 1828, is to be retained without any change other than the fastenings for the new mountings for the new bells.  The bells will be used for full circle ringing.      Two of the existing bells are listed, the Fourth Bell and the Fifth Bell.  These are believed to be sixteenth century bells, although they have no markings to indicate their date of casting.  These are to be retained in the tower on the floor level between ground floor (where the bell ringers stand) and the level of the bell frame (which has a solid floor).  Each of them is to be provided with a simple wooden frame, these will stand in two of the corners of the room.  The frames have been designed so that the bells can be hung with their existing headstocks and bearings on wooden replicas of sections of the bell frame, each complete with a segment of their bell wheel.  This will enable visitors to view the bells in their state when they were active members of the peal.      The bell ringers proposals were presented to a meeting of the St Andrew's and St Bartholomew's Parochial Church Council (PCC) in January 2013.  The PCC were fully supportive of the proposals and urged the bell ringers to proceed with an application for a Faculty for the works.  The churchwardens have been very supportive throughout.      An application for a Faculty was submitted to the Diocese of Gloucester in April 2013, and was granted on 29th July 2013.  We are therefore in the position where all formal applications have been approved.  There now remains the question of raising the necessary funds so that the contract for the work can be put in place.      A presentation has also been made to the Friends of St Bartholomew's Church (an organisation that raises funds to support St Bartholomew's Church) in early February 2013.  They have subsequently advised the bell ringers that they will provide financial support of £20,000 in the event that the project takes place.
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