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Bells

Old BellsBell Ringing is now as much a social function as religious but it takes place in the church tower and the structural elements of the tower is signifiant as described below. The picture of the old bells on the left and most of the other information about th bells and bell ringing has been provided by Tim Peppard.
 The Church, and its tower, dominates the skyline and it performs many functions. It retains its symbolic power both in the visual sense and as a way of broadcasting the sound of the bells. The tower and
bells still perform a practical function in conjunction with the clock. We are used to perceiving sound and vision as separate senses but that is because we have ears and eyes that captures specific range of frequencies of the same electromagnetic energy differently. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the first
western scientists to link the colours of the rainbow to musical notes but colour and music form central themes of most religions. The external view of the church tower is well known and dominates the village as it was intended to do. The internal dimensions are less well known. The ideal structure for bell
ringing would be an open roofed chimney but that is not practical in this climate. The tower is capped with a lead-covered timber roof which is very efficient at keeping out water but it also keeps sound in so the bells have to be positioned exactly and changes made to the fabric of the building to let the sound out in a harmonious manner
Church Tower Internal dimensionsThe uppermost chamber is called the bell chamber and houses the bells. This accounts for the top 29 feet (29’). The next chamber down  is about 12’ high and is called the intermediate chamber. Its function is to act as a sound box where the internal acoustics are altered to give a balanced sound of the bells to the ringers below. The third chamber is the ringing chamber where the ropes hang and the bell ringers perform. It is about 16’ high. The bottom of the tower is the ground floor which is open to the public.Externally the tower is about 20’ square all of the way from top to bottom with the internal dimensions being about 15’. The bells are hung in the uppermost chamber on a frame that about 7’ above the bell chamber floor. This is level with the sill of the top stage panel windows that can be seen from outside. This frame is about 7’ from the floor of the ringing chamber. There is a circle of honeycomb lattice louvers set in the windows positioned to be level with the bells when they are at the top of their swing to allow the sound out.
The bells were recast sometime in the 17th century or later by Pennington’s of Devon and Bilbes of Chew Stoke. These would have been the bells shown above. The oldest bell was cast by Thomas Pennington II in Exeter in 1627.The next record about expenditure on the church tower is taken from the poor relief records.  A resolution passed on 15th November 1774 agreed that “…a wire lattice be bought for the belfry window on the most reasonable terms…”.Another resolution in 29th May 1775 with bell ringing implications was “…a new ringing loft be erected at the expense of the parish/Overseers to the value of five pounds…”.Collinsons History of Somerset which was first published in 1791 included a lot of details about the Church and stated that there were five bells and a clock in the tower.It is assumed that the parish only paid for a new floor in 1775 so the next known improvement was in 1825 when the ‘newest’ bell of the old set, the treble, was cast by Thomas Mears of the Whitechapel foundry. The next enhancement was in 1874 when Francis Countess Waldegrave paid for a new clock but that is described in the page about the church building.
1890 report  page 1It was reported later in the 19th century that the swing of the bells was causing damage to the church tower. It is probable that the old wooden bell frame had become loose which allied to the medieval way of hanging bells meant the swinging bells were having a battering ram effect. A copy of this report has survived thanks to Terry and Pat Green. A copy of the first page is on the left, the next two pages are shown below.
 1890 report  page 31890 report page 2The technical report may be of limited interest but the details of how the money was raised to save the tower provides an insight to the village at the time.
The Taylor family in Loughborough achieved a breakthrough in bell tuning in 1896. Tuning bells is where science and heavy engineering combines with art. All materials resonate at a specific frequency and the sound of a bell is affected by many factors such as the properties of the metal it is constructed from, the thickness of the metal, the physical size and shape of the bell and the way it is struck.  Approximately £600 was raised by public subscription in 1913 to pay Taylor’s to save the tower and retune the bells.
One option was to retune the old set of bells but the decision was made to recast the bells. This involved taking the old bells to Loughborough, melting them and then casting the molten metal in specially created moulds. The bells were then taken to the special tuning room where they were tuned to the ‘new’ five tone principle.
This process involved removing metal to a complicated mathematical formula that was a trade secret that was only revealed to members of the Taylor family. Such was significance of this process that it was conducted behind closed doors. The secrecy was more important than the social convention that kept women out of engineering and business so even the bell founder’ daughters were taught how to tune the bells.
After tuning, the bells were fixed in the new frame that was constructed in the foundry workshops. They were then dismantled with each piece identified and the assembly was transported in Chewton Mendip in ‘kit’ form. They arrived in the LMS station in Green Park, Bath and then on the S&D line to Chilcompton. The last part of the journey was by horse and dray. A Mr John Flower, was contracted to work with Taylors on the flooring etc in the Tower. Specialist bell hangers from Tailors hoisted the parts of the bells up the tower and assembled the parts. This whole process took about 3 to 4 weeks and the Tailor’s men would have lodged in Chewton Mendip in the Old Waldegrave  Arms during that time. The bell hangers were Joe Harris, Pryce, Taylor and Arnold Taylor. Taylor’s bill eventually came to £519 and 8 shillings.
New BellsThe bells, seen on the left,  were hauled up through a trap floor in a void under the frame used to hang the bells. The late Herbert Baber witnessed this event and this sparked his lifelong interest in bell ringing. He recalled the older boys were allowed to go up to the church to watch the tenor bell being winched in to place. He clearly remembered the clicking sound of the winch ratchet as the bell went slowly up the 45 feet from the floor to the bell chamber. As it disappeared through the hole in the floor where the boards had been drawn up, somebody was heard to say  ”that’s ‘er, it’ll be a long time before ‘ee comes back down”.
 The new bells were dedicated on 25th September 1913 by F A Brymer, M A, the Archdeacon of Wells. The following text is taken from a history of Chewton Mendip written by the WI in 1954
“…There are 56 steps leading to the ringing chamber, and another 50 to the bell chamber, and 36 more to the top of the tower, making a total of 142 steps altogether. The first peal of 5040 changes to be rung on the bells was on January 20th 1914, in 3 hours 28 minutes. The first peal by a local band was on April 16th, 1932, the conductor being Mr. J. Withey. It was largely through the efforts of Mr. W. Tucker that we have a ring of eight bells instead of six. He was a good ringer, and very fond of the bells, and he spent many of his evenings teaching others the art of ringing Other ringers with fine records, include Mr. W.R. Curtis, Mr. A. Pearce, who wound the church clock and kept the belfry clean for many years; present ringers (1954) include Mr. R. Middle and Mr. L. Pullin each with more then 40 years’ service and Mr. H. Baber with 38 years.”
 The technical specification of the bells are as follows.
There were six bells from the 17th century , if not before,  until the ‘new’ bells were cast in 1913. The old bells, weighing 4 tons, 18cwt, 3 qrs and 7 lbs, were taken to Loughborough where they were melted down and recast on 29th April 1913. It was not the policy of the foundry to take photos of the old bells but an exception was made in this case. Mr Tucker, of Chewton House, sent 5shillings to help defray the cost of the time it took for the workmen to set up the bells. The actual photograph was taken by John William Taylor II.
 The bells are made of a hard crystalline alloy of 77% copper and 23% tin commonly called bronze. They were heated to 1100 degrees centigrade and the molten bronze was poured into individual moulds made
of loam which is a fine soil consisting of sand and clay. The loam moulds provided the strength and precision to produce the accuracy required for the bells but the mould was destroyed when the bells were taken out when the metal had cooled.
Major work was carried out in 1981 to the belfry. The founders removed the headstocks and fitted them with new bearings in their workshops. The clappers and rope pulleys were also returned to Loughborough for re-bushing etc. Mr Doug Ford made several trips to the foundry in Loughborough with these items and assisted the bell hanger with his work.
 The ringing chamber now contains the eight ropes for each of the bells from 1 – 8 in a clockwise direction with ringers 7 and 8 bells standing on boxes. On the north side of the room fixed to the wall is the Ellacombe Chiming Rack which allows one person to sound the bells when they are in the down position. It is also in the down position that the clock strikes the bells. A number of peal and quarter peal boards are attached to the walls of the ringing chamber commemorating the first peal of the bells and subsequent peals by the village band and other achievements as explained in the page about bell Ringing. The technical details of the individuel bells are listed below.
Bell Cwt Qrs Lbs Diameter Note
Treble 5 2 13 2’5’’ D
2 5 2 24 2’6’’ C#
3 6 2 4 2’9 ½’’ B
4 7 3 12 2’ 10 7/8’’ A
5 10 3 21 3’ 2  3/16’’ G
6 13 1 25 3’ 7½’’ F#
7 18 0 9 3’ 9 7/8’’ E
Tenor 24 1 1 4’3’ D
The total weight after tuning is f tons, 12 cwt 1 qr and 24 lbs. The total weight of the bells when they are installed is 12.5 tons. It should be noted that Taylor’s still use imperial measurement to this day.
The bells have become known as one of the classic ‘Taylor Eights’ and is considered the best set ever cast. Their excellent tonal quality is matched by the quality of the casting. The tenor is a particularly good specimen, it is finely designed, sharply moulded and cast without any surface pitting. Bells  1- 7 contain the Lomabardic script ‘Recast 1913’ and have a frieze decorated with vine leaves and grape bunches. The frieze on the tenor is of an oak leaf and acorn patron. Also on the upper part of this bell is an inscription which reads in gothic script (starting with a highly decorated ‘A’) ‘A Former ring of six bells was recast into the present ring of eight in 1913.’ There is a pattern of the rose as the full stop. Each bell carries the founder’s badge, which consists of a bell and a paschal lamb, surrounded by an inscribed border and the words of John Taylor & Co Loughborough.Once a bell has been cast, it has to be tuned. Striking any object will cause it to vibrate and make a sound of some sort. A vibrating bell produces many frequencies of sound, each produced by a different mode of vibration. A bell is tuned to five partial tones, spanning two octaves. The “strike” note, which is heard on the impact of the clapper and the “hum” note, which swells up afterwards, are the two most evident to the unpracticed ear, the others being the minor third, the fifth and the octave above the strike. The hum note should be one octave below the strike.
Once a bell has been cast, the partial frequencies are tuned by removing metal in annular rings, usually from the inside. This is where there is a conflict between the appearance of the bell and the sound it makes. All of the decorative work may improve the look of the bell but the details also affect the sound of a bell. It is usually not possible to tune a single partial frequency in a bell. The bell-founder’s skill is needed to accurately bring the partial frequencies into tune with themselves, and the bell in tune with others, because removing metal from one place inside the bell affects more than one partial frequency. This process used to be done according to ‘ear’ of a bell tuner until scientific developments in a number of fields made greater accuracy possible. The basis of true-harmonic tuning is that the five lowest partials (the hum, prime, tierce, quint and nominal) should be related as simple musical intervals.
One way to measure intervals in the frequency of the vibrations of a bell  and to compare them with a musical note is to use a logarithmic scale called a cent. 100 cents make a semitone, 1200 cents make an octave. The following paragraph is taken from Taylor’s website.
Taylor‘s introduced their five tone principle of bell tuning in 1896. This produces the purity and sweetness of tone and allows the bell to sound with full and rich mellowness. This gives Taylor bells their special characteristic and sets them apart from all other cast bronze bells. The Bell Master and the Bell Tuner work on five principal harmonics, the hum, fundamental, tierce, quint and nominal but these in turn influence and affect many others. When the correct frequency for each of these harmonics has been achieved, the bell is in tune with itself. In a set of bells, each bell is tuned using the same standards applied to its own frequencies and thus each bell in the set is not only in tune with itself, but also with each bell in the set.”
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