History Society hears bells

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Bell

by Janet Seaton

The Society's June meeting was held at Aller Church and featured a presentation by our Vice Chair and experienced bell ringer, Anne Michell, on the restoration of the Aller bells.

The bells at Aller Church had been silent for 50 years when the Parish Council decided in 1997 to try to get them restored as a project to celebrate the Millennium. They had just two years in which to raise the £26,000 that would be needed, and after sterling efforts from the local community, the sum was achieved — and without the benefit of lottery money.

Anne's talk was illustrated by detailed 'before and after' photographs of the belfry, the bells, and the work to restore the whole of the inner construction of the tower. Because the tower is a listed building, the original wooden frame dating back to the late 16th or early 17th century that held the bells had to be retained, even though it was too badly affected by wet rot and decay due to death watch beetle and woodworm to support new bells. A new metal frame was constructed and installed below the existing one — a considerable feat of engineering.

Three new bells with tones to complement the original bells were sourced via a central fund of bells from redundant churches, bringing the peal to six. The new six bell peal were ready for rededication on St Andrew's Day 1999. New bell ropes with pre-stretched polyester tops and flax ends with the sallies in the colours of St Andrew were commissioned in 2005. These ropes are less susceptible to the wear and damp which makes them difficult to handle.

The Tower Captains of Aller and Huish Episcopi then demonstrated bell-ringing techniques, and invited members of the audience to have a go themselves. The good people of Aller must have wondered what was going on! Bell ringers are always needed, so anyone who would like to try it out should come to Huish Church on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 7.30 pm, where they will be very welcome.

The History Society's next meeting will be at Langport Library on Monday 3 September, when John Allen will give a talk about the Monmouth Rebellion. It is free to members (annual membership from September is £15): non-members are welcome, admission £4.

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