Wellington (NZ) St Peter

Michael Wilby michael at ...
Tue Aug 23 13:13:45 BST 2005

On my recent tour "down under" Tony Daw, Mark Esbester, Roy 
LeMarechal and I gained access to the tower containing an unringable 
16cwt Warner 8 of 1879. Our visit was quite short – about 15 
minutes, as the vicar had to fly off to Auckland, however any future 
visitors are encouraged to make contact: he was only too happy to let 
us up the tower.

The church and tower are wooden – apparently quite a common thing in 
NZ – but not ideal for ringing bells of any weight. Seems to be the 
problem here: the tower is quite tall, comprises four upright corner 
posts, not particularly well braced until the belfry stage, clad with 
clapper boarding, and crowned with a spire.

The ringing chamber is at second floor level – about 50% of the way 
up the tower (at the top of the arched windows), reached by two 
flights of stairs, and is about 10' high. A near-vertical ladder 
gives access to a 4' intermediate chamber (no windows) and another 
ladder brings one through a trap door beneath the tenor into the bell 

The bells are hung in a two tier wooden frame; 3 and 7 above 
(swinging liturgical E-W – I think), the rest below, all swinging the 
other direction: 8,1,2 in one half of the tower, 6,5,4 in the other 
(upper tier above these bells).

Almost all fittings remain intact, except for the odd bit of 
shrouding and perhaps a slider or two. There are the remains of some 
ropes still on a few of the wheels. All appears to be in remarkably 
good condition – certainly it doesn't look as if the place has been 
deserted for 125 years; the rope remnants appear to be younger than 
this. Perhaps the clean atmosphere is the answer – there is not much 
rust and some of the bells swing fairly freely in their plain 

>From the church history it appears that the bells were rung at the 
try-out c1879, when the tower was found to move so much that all 
ringing was abandoned there and then. However I did find an odd 
reference in Elizabeth Bleby's "Their sound has gone forth" 
suggesting the when the Great Adventure party visited the tower in 
1934 (and didn't ring) they found that the bells had been rung a few 
years earlier. Looking at the tower I find this surprising, but 
maybe this could account for the remains of the ropes?

In the 60s and 70s there seems to have been some changes chimed on 
the bells: eight ropes hang in the ringing room, connected to the 
ellacombe hammers, and there's a blackboard with a line of Grandsire 
Doubles. We managed to double-hand some rounds on the bells – the 
sound isn't anything special, but not too bad either.

More recently Peter Whitehead has visited the tower and reported to 
the church on the state of the bells – apparently they have (or had) 
some money and a desire to do something about the installation. His 
view is that the bells should hang in an internal free-standing steel 
tower within the current structure. Having rung on the little 5 at 
Old St Paul's I wonder if the tower would withstand a similar sized 8 
hung in the lower tier of the existing frame.

I have some photos of the installation, though not too good due to 
lack of wide-angle lens and cramped conditions. Mark Esbester has 
some better ones that I will try to get hold of and forward to the 

I have very little in the way of historical information on these 
bells - can anyone shed any more light on these bells, and any 
ringing on them?



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