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Belfry News from Gedney - February 2015

Neglect and its Problems

Last Friday, when walking "Millie", our dog, and passing through the church yard, I heard subdued voices from on high, not heavenly, but accompanied by the sounds of an electric drill and issuing from the tower louvres. I realised that steeple jacks were working in the tower to prevent the ingress of birds, mainly Jackdaws. On behalf of Gedney bell ringers I would like to thank the PCC for progressing this work, as if allowed to continue, these birds not only make an awful mess, but in addition cause considerable damage to wheels and fittings. There is also the question of cleanliness and hygiene-not a pleasant task clearing a seasons twigs and droppings .

In the above context I am reminded of St Marks Church, Leicester, which had a ring of eight bells with a fine 23 cwt tenor, given by the founder of the church in 1872 at a cost of £960-a not inconsiderable sum in those days By the time I commenced ringing at All Saints, Leicester, a lad of 14 years, St Mark's bells were deemed unringable. I recall one Leicester ringer, of perhaps biassed opinion, exclaiming that this unfortunate situation was due to the church having an "unringable vicar" At all events, years of neglect and no resident ringers had resulted in an appalling deterioration in the integrity of the wheels and fittings. I had meanwhile always yearned to hear these bells, my interest stimulated by tales of old Leicester ringers who had actually rung there. I should add that they had not been rung since-well-I'm not sure but perhaps 1920 or thereabouts

Well, we saw the state these bells were in when , in February, 1958, the then current vicar (not the unringable earlier incumbent) gave us permission to look at the bells and to see if they could perhaps be chimed on the occasion of HM The Queen's visit to Leicester. However, full of youthful enthusiasm we went further with a dozen or so of us, and on a Saturday, working all day, we cleaned the tower of years of deposits, carried out a careful inspection, temporary repairs to the wheel shrouds, attention to the bearings plus eight old ropes borrowed from St Johns Church, we rang these bells. Heavens they were hard work, but now with hopefully wisdom of age, I realise we shouldn't have done it as it was the last time these bells, as installed at St Marks were rung, the church authorities, and in particular an "unringable churchwarden" banning all further operations. Thereafter the bells just rotted in the tower until years later St Marks was declared redundant

The building was fortunately preserved, being purchased and renovated and now used as an Asion style banquetting hall, the current owner having spent a considerable sum so the condition of the building is better than it was when used as a church. As for the bells, they were transferred to Goulburn, Australia, where they remain in use to this day.

I recount this little story as it epitomises what can happen after years of neglect, which more easily occurs where there are no resident bellringers, when I imagine it becomes a case of "out of sight, out of mind". So-let us keep teaching 'em at Gedney-anyone keen to learn?

John Bennett