[Bell Historians] Re: Corbridge correction

khsbelring@aol.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Sat Feb 21 22:27:56 GMT 2015

Thanks Alan and apologies to other BHs. for rushing and making the errors. Glad to see Alan is on the ball - Howard
-----Original Message-----
From: alan Buswell aaj.buswell at gmail.com [bellhistorians] <bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com>
To: bellhistorians <bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Sat, 21 Feb 2015 15:23
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Corbridge

There is a slight error to the Serial Numbers to the G&J bells for Corbridge.        
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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