Bell Report (April 1987)

From the Advisor of Bells, Diocese of Norwich.
Dr. Paul Cattermole, B.Sc., Ph, D.
12th April 1987

WOOD NORTON BELL

Dear Mr Greenhough,

Thank you for allowing me to climb the tower on Friday afternoon. I enclose some notes on the bell.

Sums of money left in wills of 1531, 1532 and 1533 “to the bylding of the stepull of All Saynte Woodnorton”; suggest a date for the lower part of the present tower. The flint gable of the nave shows inside the bell-chamber, suggesting that the upper part of the tower (which is recorded as having three bells in 1552) may not have been of masonry. The date 1616 is carved on a moulded timber below the first floor. By the end of the 17th century the bells were hung in a low shed in the churchyard “and the houses in the parish being scattered and at a distance, it was impossible for the parishioners to know when they should repair to church”. The Bishop granted a licence to rebuild part of the tower and melt down three small bells into one. The brick bell-chamber looks very much like early-l8th – century work, with its round-headed sound-windows and embattled coping.

The bell-frame, which fills half the floor area of the bell-chamber, is massively constructed with long frame-heads and corner posts, and has short braces connecting the frame-heads to the corner posts.

The single bell has a diameter of 40.25inches, weighing approximately 11 cwt and sounding flat of G. The bell, a good casting of resonant tone, with its full complement of six cannons, and retaining the cast-in crown-staple from which the clapper hangs, is one of the last to be cast at the Norwich bell-foundry which closed in 1758. It is inscribed~

IOHN BROOKE + JAMES PAWLEY + C W + THO=GARDINER + FECIT 1753

The outside of the sound-bow appears to have been struck by a clock hammer over a long period, although there is no clock in the tower at present.

Although the bell is hung for full-circle ringing with a huge wheel, massive stay and slider, it is sounded by means of a rope attached to the clapper. This method, which is known as “clocking”, can very easily cause a bell to become cracked by an over-hard pull on the rope or by the ringer’s failure to release the rope immediately after the clapper has struck the bell; and there are many local instances where bells have been irreparably damaged in this way, The clapper is worn flat at the place where the ball strikes the bell, with the result that the bell sounds “panny”: the soundbow of the bell is very worn at the place where the clapper has struck, and the sound of the bell is much impaired by the clapper striking  in the indentation. The worn part of the soundbow constitutes a weakness from which a crack: in the bell may start.

The present unsafe method of sounding the bell should be stopped and the rope should be removed from the clapper. If there is no other feasible way of using the bell at present, then it is recommended that the clapper should be re-roped in such a way that an unworn face of the clapper-ball strikes an unworn part of the soundbow of the bell, and that the pulley over which the rope passes is positioned in such a way that the clapper cannot be held against the bell. It is also recommended  that a stop be positioned to prevent the clapper being swung through to large an arc and thus delivering too hard a blow to the bell. Even with such precautions, it is still necessary to exercise extreme caution in sounding the bell, and it should be remembered that it would very easy for an inexperienced, and possibly unauthorised ringer to crack the hell by a single hard pull on the rope.

I am sure that it would he possible to patch up the fittings of the bell at modest cost so that it is fit to be gently swing-chimed for services. The bell needs to be lifted for the bearings to he cleaned out and the gudgeon pins checked, the clapper assembly will need a little attention, and all the ironwork will need to he thoroughly checked. A secondhand bell-rope can probably be provided. You will appreciate that this must he considered only as an interim arrangement, since the bell really needs a full-scale overhaul.

Without further comment, and for his information, I am copying this letter to your Architect Mr.T. Nash: and am enclosing a second copy for your parish records. Please let me know it I can us of any further assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cattermole

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