[Bell Historians] Corbridge

alan Buswell aaj.buswell@gmail.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Sat Feb 21 15:23:31 GMT 2015

There is a slight error to the Serial Numbers to the G&J bells for
Taken from their earliest Tuning Book (my volume reference is ' - ' a
minus) and on page 65 one will find: #1: 1089;  #2: 1087;   #3:  1088;
#4: 1083;   #5: 1090;   #6:  1084.
The weights given are probably the cast weights.


On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 8:39 PM, khsbelring at aol.com [bellhistorians] <
bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com> wrote:

>  It would appear that I have stimulated interest in Corbridge
> by explaining the current position which I now think, for the state of
> accuracy, I should  expand a bit.
>  Prior to the recent installation of a solid permanent wood floor the
> bells could have been rung by removing the large planks used to cross the
> frame to gain access to the tower roof for the purpose of flag raising. Now
> the wood floor is in place that is not possible as five of the bells can no
> longer swing.
>  So the bells themselves were ringable but to have rung them may very
> well have caused long term damage to the tower. Technically Corbridge  should
> have more correctly been given a tower unsafe designation. Now they are *definitely
> physically unringable. *
>  Prior to 1888 there were three bells in the tower the largest cast by
> Aaron Peever of Kirk Oswald in 1629. These bells had long lain silent and
> at a public meeting in January of 1887 it was decided to install new bells
> in honour of the jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria in June of 1887. Mr.
> F.M. Laing of Farnley Grange and Mr. T. Sheldon of Summerville each agreed
> to pay for one bell, the remaining cost being defrayed by present and
> former parishioners.
>  So it was that six new bells were cast in 1887.
>  1          Gillett & Co. Croydon                     G.& J. no. 1084
> 251/2”             4-0-02
>  2          Gillett & Co. Croydon                      G.& J. no. 1087
> 261/2”             4-0-14
>  3          Gillett & Co. Croydon                      G.& J. no. 1088
> 28”                  4-1-09
>  4          Gillett & Co. Croydon                      G.& J. no. 1083
> 291/2”             5-1-00
>  5          Gillett & Co. Croydon                      G.& J. no. 1090
> 311/2”             5-2-09
>  6          Gillett & Co. Croydon                      G.& J. no. 1083
> 34”                  6-2-23
>  In 1888 they were hung and first rung by ringers from St. Stephens, Low
> Elswick at the dedication service as reported in the Bell News and Ringers
> Record of June 2nd 1888.
>  During the 1800s all of the bell foundries tried to outdo each other and
> this was accomplished in the main by putting the largest bells possible in
> the smallest space and hanging them right at the top of a tower so that the
> sound  would carry further with no regard to the structure. From memory
> of 1972, I recollect that when standing on the upper frame sills you can
> rub your head on the roof.
>  In my opinion the two main things that eventually stopped the full
> circle ringing at Corbridge were –
>  Firstly there was indeed tower movement, first mentioned as late as 1908
> by Canon Lonsdale, and discussed at various points up to the early 1920s
> when full circle ringing was finally suspended.
>           Secondly there was constant enmity between the ringers and the  P.C.C.
> mainly documented as total disagreement with who was responsible for
> maintenance of the bells ( specifically purchase of new ropes and greasing
> of the bells ) This constant almost warfare between the two groups probably
> made the decision to stop full circle ringing much easier as it got rid of
> two problems at the same time.
>            We now jump forward to 25th March 1972. On that day a number
> of well known ringers and bell “consultants” met and rang the bells. They
> were *easy enough to ring with no mechanical problems *and the ringing
> was of a high quality and much appreciated. *However*. Wishing to explain
> this in an acceptable way we ringers talk about peal speeds as a judge of
> time spent ringing at individual towers. Thus a peal at Newcastle Cathedral
> with its thirty seven hundredweight tenor should take between 3 hours. 30
> mins  and 3 hours 45 mins. The natural ringing speed at Corbridge is
> about 2 hours 45 minutes.
>  *When rung* *at 2-45 speed there is no argument that the tower does
> indeed go into periodic spasm.*
>  *When rung* *at 3 hour speed all of the spasmodic movement disappears*.
>            A main part of the problem is that the bells are so high in
> the tower and that they all swing East / West.  No bell hanger would hang
> the bells in this fashion today. The frame would be designed so that the
> bells did not all swing in one direction and they would be put slightly
> lower in the tower.
>  The wobbleometer was in use and the tried and tested threepenny piece
> stood upright on top of the tower did not fall over. It was noticeable that
> there was movement as our brains seem to pick up movement very easily when
> we expect there not to be any.
>  What has happened since 1972. ?
>            One of the unfortunate things about the whole situation is
> that in the 1970s there were no bell restoration funds available. Had that
> 1972 inspection been done more recently funds would have been available to
> partly defray the cost of restoration. In the meantime I am aware that at
> least one incumbent had an aversion to bells so that for many years nothing
> could or would have been done.
>            By request of the Rev. Constantine in 1991 Dr. S.B. Bell ( the
> then Diocesan bell advisor ) did a cursory inspection prior to the clock
> weight train being electrified. In this inspection he wrote -
>  “*I would therefore recommend that the bells and fittings are kept in
> good order with the necessary preservatives, until a time when it might be
> possible to position them lower in the tower so that they can be rung full
> circle in the traditional English style”.*
>  To be fair to the P.C.C. they have done everything by the book. There
> was no will to embark on any bell restoration and in spite of what you may
> think about the wealth of Corbridge inhabitants allegedly there was not
> much likely hood of securing the funds.
>  These days the issues of safety are not neglected by the bell hangers
> and modern schemes would incorporate them and although what is now a solid
> floor allowing no scope for ringing it would be reversible if someone with
> the funds came along and managed to stir up sufficient interest. The bells
> would need to be hung lower down in a different frame layout. To sum it all
> up there remains a small glimmer of hope that sometime in the future the
> bells could be rung full circle again.
>  Howard E. J. Smith – Diocesan bell advisor.
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