On towers, belfries and ringing chambers

My friend Jonathan Calder from Liberal England recounts the fun he had inspecting a church tower in Shopshire recently.

Bell towers are often interesting (and dangerous) places to visit, so should you ever find a tower door open, it’s up to you to observe suitable safety guidelines. Don’t touch the ropes, and don’t go near the actual bells without supervision! Each church bell can weigh more than a small van, and can easily kill an inexperienced person who gets too close.

It’s very true that church towers have to work hard to hold up all that heavy metal – but think on to the forces that act against the tower when each of the bells is swinging through more than a full circle to fling the clapper onto the bell lip at the sort of speed that makes the bells audible for miles.

If you visit a tower during ringing practice or service ringing, and lean against the wall, it’s not unusual to feel the whole tower swaying as it tries to cope. The bells are often hung at 180 degrees from each other so they are not all swinging in the same direction at the same time.

One final advantage of being in possession of the keys to church towers is the fantastic views you often get from their rooftops. In most rural p;aces, the church will be the highest things for miles, so you can see all sorts of surprising things. To illustrate this post, here are some photos I took with my phone when I was ringing at St Peter’s, Nottingham, for a wedding recently. It was a fine day, so we ventured out onto the roof to sunbathe, and got a reciprocal view back into my office in the Council House to the one I can usually see from my desk of the roof of St Peters.

View from roof of St Peters   View from roof of St Peters   View from roof of St Peters

The cream building in the distance is one referred to as “the Pod” by planners, and is, depending on your view, “breathtakingly audacious” / “monstrously out of place”; “award-winning” / “carbuncle” etc, etc.

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