After 115 years St Nicholas Strood are to have a ring of eight bells to replace the set of ten tubes that replaced the three old bells left from the ring of six which were destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1898.
On 30 April 2013 the tower was overrun by a group of people to check the tower for a 10½cwt ring of eight. These people were Rev Adrian Demster (structural engineer specialising in church bells and towers), Rev David Cawley (KCACR committee member), Doug Snoswell (KCACR PRO and Chairman Bell St Nicholas Strood Bells Appeal), and Elaine Ford and Ken Reynolds (churchwardens).
After Adrian had spent about an hour photographing the tower from all angles followed by a further two hours climbing over the inside of the tower, the long awaited verdict was that the tower was perfectly strong enough; even the cracks around the windows were expansion cracks and nothing to worry about.
When the bells are put in the only structural alteration that will be needed is a concrete ring beam at the new belfry level, trapdoors to the new belfry and an extra trapdoor to the old belfry for sound control purposes.
According to Stahlschmidt there were three bells left in 1887, the other three (being cracked) having been sold about 50 years previously, “the proceeds being mainly appropriated to the purchase of a new clock”. The treble of the three didn’t have any founder’s details, but the other two were cast by Warner’s in 1788, the first year of the firm’s existence. There was an interesting snippet in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper of 18 December 1898, reading as follows:
Yesterday, in the church of St. Nicholas, at Strood, near Rochester, preparations were being made for a marriage to take place in the church, when suddenly flames were observed issuing from the western tower, the only part remaining of the original structure built nearly 800 years ago. Although the fire brigade were very smart in getting to work, the fire completely gutted the tower, leaving only the walls standing. The Portland stone turret was destroyed, together with the clock and bells.
Despite this unforeseen disaster, the bridal party arrived on the scene before the firemen had quitted it, and the nuptial knot was tied while the ruins were still smouldering.
After 114 years St Nicholas Strood are to have a ring of eight bells to replace the set of ten tubes that replaced the three old bells left from the ring of six which were destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1898.
The five bells that are at present at Murston will form part of the ring with three new bells. It is hoped that they will be installed and ringing by Easter 2014.