Church Bells & Bell Ringing

Our bells on a lorry
Our old bells en route to the foundry


Bells are the voice of the church building, calling people to worship and rung at weddings, funerals, state and local civic occasions, as well as to mark national events.  After 170 years, ours had reached the end of their useful life.  A major project is underway to replace them with a prestigious new set which will be displayed in church prior to their installation and blessed at the 10:00 Service on Sunday 5 November 2017.


Follow Our Bellstory ...

6 July 2017: First Casting Session for Our New Bells

Visit to Bell Foundry
Some of our coach party at the Foundry

A coach-load travelled to Loughborough watch the first casting session for our new bells.  A fantastic experience for all.  Do find us (and more photos!) on Taylor's fascinating website (scroll down to find Kirkham). It's all happening!

Casting process being explained
The process explained

Bell cast labelled Kirkham 6th 2-71/2
Mould buried and will be left for a week so it cools down slowly

Casting bell no.6
Casting of our No.6 bell




25 November 2016: Goodbye Bells!


Our old bells at Taylors Foundry
Our bells lined up at Taylor's Foundry

The bells left Kirkham on 25 November 2016 for recasting at Taylor's.  The Treble and No.4 will be sent to Holy Cross Church in Slapton, Buckinghamshire. 

Bells loaded on lorry
The bells loaded onto Taylor's lorry, ready for the off

Tenor bell and bell ringers
The Tenor with some of our bell ringers

Find us on the Foundry's fascinating website under 'Contracts/Work in Progress'.  Our new bells will be cast on 6th and 20th July 2017 after which work will then continue to prepare the new frames etc. before they can be brought to Kirkham.


November 2016: Bells Are Removed from the Tower

After lots of preparatory work (see below), Taylor's of Loughborough, our bellfounders, arrived on site to remove theactual bells from the tower.

Removed bells on display
Six of the bells on display in church before they left -
the other two were too large to leave the kitchen!

Removed bells
Bells all lowered into the old kitchen below

Treble bell being lowered
Tenor bell being lowered through the trapdoor

Cutting bolts away
Sparks fly as the bolts are cut away

Bell frame being cut away
Frame being cut away to give access to create trapdoor in floor

Timbers installed to support bell lifting gear
Timbers are installed to support lifting gear

Taylors Bellfounders arrive at church
Taylor's Bellfounders arrive on site


November 2016: Volunteers Prepare the Bells for Removal

Bells up ready for removal of fittings
The bells up ready for removal of fittings


The last Sunday Service ring was on 30 October 2016, with the final Practice the following evening, and then we set to and prepared the bells and tower for the arrival of Taylor's bell founders.


Diagram with parts of church bell labelled


To substantially reduce costs we had eight working days during which to remove all fittings from the bells themselves; clappers, stays, sliders, ropes and wheels.  Removing these gave us better access to the clock chime hammers and counterbalance weights.  We then removed all woodwork, floor pulleys and guides in the clock room (silent chamber), followed by the removal of the high level rope guide within the ringing room itself.  The dedicated team of volunteers did a great job.


Bells with all wheels removed

Looking down on the bells after the removal of their wheels


Removed wheels

The removed wheels


Bell clappers after removal

The removed clappers.

The two-part Tenor clapper (far left) is almost 2m long and weighs 39.6kgs!


Clock chime hammer for bell no.3

The chime hammer for the tower clock from bell No.3
- how many hours had this marked?



October 2016: Final Peal


Rope Spider

The rope spider holds the bell ropes
while they are not in use


Fylde Ringers rang a final quarter peal on Thursday 27 October 2016 dedicated to the placing of the Colours of the 7th Battalion Loyal Lancs Regiment in our church, the opening of Church Memorial House and the unveiling of the commemorative plaque to those who fell in World War I.

We shall remember them.


The Restoration Project

Our exciting Project will replace the heavy, discordant, difficult to ring, 170 year old peal of eight bells with a modern, lighter, harmonically tuned peal of ten.  The lighter weight and the provision of a new ringing room will make these bells easier to ring and will provide an excellent training facility.  The addition of a CCTV system linking the belfry, ringing room and Church room will give a superb visitor experience.

Of the ten new bells, the front six will be recast from our old ones, with the details of the benefactors from 1846 newly inscribed, and the back four will come from a redundant church in Porth in Glamorgan.

The cost will be funded by an extremely generous bequest and a desire from the deceased to restore the bells and bell tower, with additional funding being sought from businesses and charitable trusts.  Organisations and individuals are also invited to sponsor specific items such as ropes, bells and clappers for amounts ranging from £20.00 to £5,000.00.  A suitable plaque will be prepared listing major sponsors.  Inscriptions onto the headstocks or bells to remember a loved one or special event may also be arranged.

Donations may be made by cheque, made payable to the Bell Restoration Account, or in cash.  Please place in an envelope labelled 'Bell Fund' and hand to any bell ringer or Church official, post into the wall safe in the room at the back of the Church or post to The Treasurer, St Michael's Church, Church Street, Kirkham, PR4 2SE.  Electronic transfers may be sent to the Bell Restoration Account number 80300987, sort code 01-04-84.  Please Gift Aid where possible.  Any contribution is appreciated, no matter how small.

You may also be able to assist in more practical ways  - all you need is a willingness to help.

Contacts
Bell Captain Terry Williams 01772 682484
Churchwarden Tony Kay 01772 685601


Bell Ringing

Our team of bellringers

We always welcome new ringers.  Bell ringing does not require great physical strength, neither do you have to be musically minded, though good hand-eye co-ordination and a good ear will help.  Young people must be at least 12 years old (those aged 12-16 need permission from a parent or guardian).  Although we await our new bells before ringing recommences at St Michael's, our ringing team continue to practice at other local churches.
Contact
Bell Captain Terry Williams, 01772 682484.



History

Bells
The set of eight bells was installed in 1846 by Mears and Stainbank at a cost of £580,6s and was the heaviest on the Fylde.   In September 1922, they were re-hung at a cost of £250.00 to commemorate the centenary of the Church.  Parishioners raised the money and a stone plaque inside the church displays the information.              

Around the shoulder of all the bells was the inscription:  C&G MEARS. FOUNDERS. LONDON. 1846.
Additionally around the waist of bell: -

 No 4   PRESENTED BY Thomas Langton Birley, Kirkham. 1846.

 No 6   PRESENTED BY Wm Birley ESQre.  1846.

 No 8   Charles ) Birley                  Bailiffs of Kirkham
             Edmund )
             James Webber, Dr             Vicar

          
John Redder.                       A.M.Curate
             Edwd Bryning  )
             Rob Moon        )                 Church Wardens
             Edwd Bonney  )


Bell Ringers
In the 1930’s the main body of ringers came from the Cookson family, with Chris Cookson being the Bell Captain; a connection which continues. After World War II the whole team of ringers were from the Cookson family; 3 sons, one brother, 3 cousins and Bell Captain George Cookson. George’s son Keith, is still ringing,  and his daughter Angela also rings when in town.

St Michaels Bell Ringers in the 1930s

The Bellringing Team in the 1930's - Back row left to right: Ephriam Parkinson; Jimmy Worthington; Jimmy Whalley; Victor Whalley (brothers) and Chris Cookson. (Grandfather to Keith Cookson - still ringing). 

In 1979 I became Bell Captain when George passed away and am still here.  For a while I had my own dynasty with both my sons and a daughter-in-law as part of the ringing team.  All towers do struggle to maintain a band of ringers and Kirkham St. Michael is no different.  Demands of college, changes of employment, marriage, retirement etc. do drain the local band so new ringers are constantly being sought.  Bell ringing can be a very useful and interesting hobby.  It is a good introduction to new friends at college or work.  Many ringers go on holiday to parts of the country where church bells are in working order and spend some of their holiday time going from tower to tower.
Terry Williams, Bell Captain