The bells of Milton-next-Gravesend today rang out for the first time since damage was caused during a storm a few years ago.
During the summer of last year Gareth Lawson (District Ringing Master) made enquiries with the tower secretary, Maria Yetman as to why the bells were silent. It became apparent that a louver had blown in during a storm and landed on the wheel of the third bell causing it to break. As a result pigeons used the belfry as their home; some became trapped and died, and as you can imagine, the mess made was not pleasant. The vicar prevented access to the tower for health and safety reasons and arranged for the hole to be blocked off and the pigeons (and mess) to be removed.
Prior to Christmas the tower became ready for an inspection with a view to having the wheel repaired. Gareth liaised with Brian Butcher (Bell Restoration Officer) and Alan Driver (District Chairman) who in turn liaised with Maria and the vicar, and the belfry was viewed.
The photos below clearly show the broken wheel.
On Saturday 13th January Brian Butcher and Alan Driver attended the tower with the third wheel of the old installation from High Halstow, which practically fitted like a glove. The pulley wheels were freed from the pigeon mess and the bells were tested one by one. They were joined by Florence Hamp, Gareth Lawson, Graham Cottle, Paul Coffill and Peter Hartley making seven ringers. A plain course of Plain Bob Minor was rung on the back seven with a tenor cover. Some rounds were also rung on the front six, and all appears to be in order. Brian Butcher has said that work will soon need to be carried out on the bells – namely the clappers and ground pullies. A trap also needs replacing underneath the fourth to stop the bell from ‘shouting’ down the tower. Some work is also required on the walls within the ringing chamber to stop the chalk from flaking away. However, all that is required in the immediate future is a good spring clean of the tower – from top to bottom!
Despite Alan Driver wearing what appeared to be a tea cosy there was not a pot of tea in sight! He is pictured ringing up the sixth.
Florence Hamp, on the other hand, showcased a proper item of head clothing to shield her hair from the pigeon mess and dust that was about to fall on her as she rang up the fourth.
This begs the question… does dried bird pooh still count as good luck?!?!?!
Maria Yetman was delighted that the bells are once again ringable, and extends her thanks to all those involved. She is very keen to get the bells ringing again on Sunday mornings before looking to instigate a weekly practice, and with a local band of only four ringers Maria is very keen to hear from anyone that may be able to assist for service ringing, and other special occasions such as weddings. If you would be available to help out please contact Maria via email.