HISTORY, BACKGROUND AND THE PROPOSAL
This is the full story - made easier to digest with some pictures.
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Before the building of Raynham Hall, the Townsends lived in a fortified and moated manor with the church and West Raynham village nearby. In later centuries the village was rebuilt further away across the valley but the church remained and is now within the park. There were three bells then but church reports record an increase to four very large bells, weighing 10cwt, 12cwt, 14cwt and 20cwt - a massive total weight of 56cwt (6,272lbs)! There is little doubt that these bells were well used by local ringers - ringing was very popular in Norfolk at this time. By 1734 the church was very dilapidated and the Bishop allowed the sale of the three smaller bells to raise money for repairs, leaving a single bell inscribed: JOHN DARBIE MADE ME 1670. THOMAS WILKINSON, CHURCH WARDEN. This early 20cwt bell was sold when the church was rebuilt by the 5th Marquess Townshend (by now spelled with an 'h') in 1868. Please 'Click' here for Picture 1.(To return to this page, follow the 'Click' instructions at the bottom of the picture).
The 19th Century architects provided a good, solid tower for the new church. It was designed for a proper ring of bells, the ringing chamber being reached by a spiral stair within an adjoining turret. (Most bell-ringers were considered to be drunk and/or disorderly and the Victorians preferred to keep them out of sight.) The Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast three bells, the tenor weighing almost 10 cwt (1120 lbs.), to the order of Lord Townshend. The oak bell-frame was set on four massive foundation beams, and designed in such a way that it could readily be extended to take eight bells. 'Click' here for Picture 2.
BACKGROUND - THE CURRENT SITUATION.
The bells themselves are very fine and are clearly intended to be the three largest of a proper peal of 8, but the remaining bells were never commissioned. They remain much as they were in 1868 but the moving parts of the bell mechanism are now well worn and have suffered from attack by wood boring insects. The installation is deteriorating with use making the bells almost impossible to ring ( 'Click' on this to see picture 3.) and making it unsafe for teaching new and younger recruits (i.e. 12 - 15 year olds), whom we would like to encourage for the future.
The distance between ringers and bells needs to be increased as there is insufficient weight in the short ropes to keep them on the wheels. The noise is intolerable for the ringers and makes verbal communication impossible. This latter problem was alleviated to some extent by a local benefactor adding insulation to the bell floor, but it is still literally deafening. Ropesight (the art of visual timing) is not possible as the bell ropes hang in a straight line, the Tenor rope being uncomfortably near the top of the steep spiral stair and the Treble too close to the wall to be able to turn towards the other ringers. Expansion to eight bells would be impossible in this chamber because of the considerable space taken up by the tower clock. See this in Pictures 4 and 5 ('Click' here). A completely clear space is necessary to achieve safety and ease of ringing for services. This rules out lowering the ropes to the Vestry floor because it would render it out of bounds at the very time when it is most needed by the clergy and their attendants. The ropes would also be very springy because of the length of the drop, increasing the difficulty of ringing. Safety with the bells 'up' (see them 'up' in Picture 6, 'click' here) would be non-existent. This is seen as a major hazard with possibilities of horrendous accidents to people gathering in the church for services, particularly weddings with young attendants waiting in the vestry.
Lastly, of major importance is the fact that there is no physical, visual or oral communication between the existing ringing chamber and the body of the church. Since ringers very often include Churchwardens, Sidesmen and members of the Choir and congregation, a considerable amount of running up and down the steep spiral staircase outside is involved. This is a deterrent to many excellent but rather less able-bodied ringers.
To celebrate the early years of the new Millennium our project is to augment the "ring" to eight bells with a new Ringing Gallery, lower within the tower arch at the west end of the church, visible and accessible from the nave. Click here for Picture 7. Again, hit BACK arrow on your screen to continue from here.
The five new bells will be cast at The Whitechapel Bell Foundry (they cast the original Liberty Bell for the United States of America) in London and tuned to form a diatonic octave in the key of G with the existing three larger bells. Their benefactors' names and/or dedications will be cast onto the bells. (Picture 8 shows two examples.)
There is a fine window at the west end of the church and this will be lit from the inside during daylight services and at night by an outside floodlight, thus reducing any loss of visibility which may occur from the insertion of a ringing gallery. The Vestry under this window, and subsequently under the gallery, will become a much needed secure lockable room in the church. New storage for books and service leaflets, candles, communion wafers and wine will be provided. It is proposed that the new beamed and joisted ceiling of the Vestry will be "illuminated" by painting and gilding, to include the names of all of the major contributors.('Click' here for Picture 9, to see a sketch of how it might look). This new ceiling will be carefully lit to enhance the jewel like decoration, and a spiral stair will provide access to the new Ringing Gallery. The vital addition of a Ringing Gallery will bring the ringers into the body of the church and will be a huge visual encouragement for potential recruits, young and old. From the Gallery a balcony will extend over the Vestry steps increasing the space between the bell ropes and the gallery balustrade rail. This is not only a safety feature but will provide a marvellous platform from which musicians can sing and play during, for instance, weddings and major events. Donors' plaques will be placed on the walls, recording the bell dedications for the three old bells and the new name of the Ringing Gallery, if the entire Gallery is an individual or family donation. Carpeting, heating, a clock, noticeboard, blackboard and benches will be provided.
The new set of bells will provide additional sources of income for the church; from a greater number of weddings, christenings and funerals requesting bell peals and also from many visiting ringers who pay to ring in other towers. The proposed bells will be an extremely fine eight and, we are told by the ringing fraternity, will give rise to a stream of requests to ring, even from America where change ringing' is growing in popularity. Technology will complement art with the inclusion of an Abel computer simulation set-up on all the bells to create an invaluable teaching environment. Ringing practice for both novice and accomplished ringers will take on new dimensions as it will become possible to ring and teach on a full daily basis with minimal local noise disturbance. Scope for encouraging younger ringing pupils from schools and colleges to learn to ring in such a magnificent setting will attract further support for the project.
'Click' here for the Index page.
'Click' here for the History, Background and Proposals.
'Click' here for the Pictures page.
'Click' here for the Contribution Package.
'Click' here . Your Donation will help to achieve all this in the family church in England.
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