Charlie, our Year 8 bell-ringer we wrote about last November had the unique chance to gain work experience with Whites of Appleton as they hung two new bells at North Moreton Church to mark the coronation. Here's his diary of what he got up to:
The project was to add two new bells to the existing six bells to mark the Coronation of King Charles III. The oldest bell in the tower is circa 1350 which was cast in the Wokingham foundry and the tower now has bells cast in the reign of 7 different monarchs. The two new bells are the only bells in the country with the cyphers of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.
We started the project by lifting carpets and opening the trap doors, which we need open to raise bells and steels to the top of the tower.
This was the day we started taking three of the original bells out to make space for some of the existing frame to be taken apart to create space for 2 new bell pits. Taking the frame apart involved undoing lots of nuts and bolts and lifting the frame parts with the block and tackle.
On this day we used block and tackle again to raise the steels, the frame sides and the cross section for the enlarged frame. When we were putting the steels in I learned how to use the magnetic drill which is used on the steels and it will not kick back at you if it gets stuck.
We fitted the frame sides and got ready to raise the concrete to secure the steels in the wall.
Today we were supporting the builder who was infilling the hole with concrete where the new framework goes into the tower wall.
It took longer than expected so we made use of the time with a game of noughts and crosses.…
The newly tuned bells arrive from Whites workshop and get unloaded by the forklift.
The bells get blessed by the vicar, Rev. Jason St. John Nicolle.
The bell hangers were back. We started the process of raising the bells with the block and tackle.
On day nine the BBC arrived to film and interview multiple people for South Today evening news:
The project was also featured on Radio Oxford.
We also fitted the wheels to the new bells.
On this day we connected the ropes on the bells on the heaviest four bells and I learned how to attach ropes to a bell wheel. I also learned how to splice ropes which is a way of terminating a rope or joining two ends without using a knot.
Day 11 - Test Ring Day
In the morning we had a lot to finish off in the tower. We then had the test ring, this went really well! I was in the band who were the first to ring the new North Moreton eight. This was a great day as we all felt a sense of relief that the project had gone to plan, and the eight bells sounded fantastic. And we made it in time for the Coronation!
A Ringing Endorsement
Richard Loyd, Project Manager and Ringing Master of Old North Berks Branch of ODG, had this to say about Charlie's work experience:
I am writing as project manager for the exciting bell augmentation project, which was concluded just in time for celebratory ringing for the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. This was a unique project in the history of this ancient parish church. Two new bells were added to the existing six to complete the musical octave. The original bells were cast during the reign of six previous monarchs dating from Edward III (c1350). The story has been covered by the local and national media.
Whites of Appleton were commissioned to hang the two new bells, which were cast in The Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry in The Netherlands during April. Saving considerable cost to the project, volunteer labour to assist the bell hangers was offered by a small team. Charlie was a part of that team. His role actually became a leading one as the expert bell hangers quickly recognised his enthusiasm to ‘get stuck in’, and also his ability to learn very quickly some of the technical skills necessary. Very few heavy engineering firms remain in this country, and so this project offered Charlie the unique opportunity to experience working alongside engineering experts on a project at a very significant time in our history. His energy, skill and humour were very much appreciated by everyone in the team, and his contribution was far from that of just observational.
Charlie should be justly proud of his work on this project and he will undoubtedly remember this experience for the rest of his life. He worked really hard throughout each day without complaint, and his humour during periods of sometimes dirty and difficult work was infectious. What a great hard working and committed young man he is; and we are all incredibly grateful for the kind and generous decision by his school to allow him to do this.