Harting church bells to be restored

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A long overdue major restoration of Harting church bells is to be carried out in March some 18 years after a survey revealed they needed extensive work carried out on them.

Humphrey Sladden, a member of the bell-ringing team, said the bells were to be taken down at the end of March and reassembled six weeks later after a £34,000 restoration.

“We have known for a long time that our bells are difficult to ring and indeed in 1992 we had a survey done to examine the state of wear of all the various fittings and bearings,” said Mr Sladden.

“Since then, in 2004, we asked for quotations from the three major bell founders, but they were all at that time too expensive for us to consider.”

Parishioners believe the last major work on the bells was carried out in the late 1890s when the old wooden frame was replaced with a massive cast-iron one, by Taylors of Loughborough.

“After more than 100 years it is not surprising that there has been very considerable wear on all the bearings and moving parts which all makes them very stiff to ring, especially for new trainees,” said Mr Sladden.

The work to be carried out includes the replacement of the elm headstocks on which the bells rotate with metal ones.

“Another complication here is the huge iron staples that fix the bell to the headstocks are rusting and will eventually crack the bells.”

In addition the clappers which strike the bells and the bearings on which they hang, inside the bell will have to be replaced.

“Where the clappers have struck the bells for so long they have dented them deeply. And so the bells, for the second time in their lives, will have to be turned through 90 degrees on the new headstocks.

“Failing to do this will also eventually crack the bells.”

New wheels around which the bell ropes sit will also be installed as well as new cast-nylon pulleys to guide the bell ropes to the floor.

“The Friends of Harting Church have magnificently and generously agreed to fund the project with the help of a grant from the Sussex Churches Bell Restoration Fund of £7,000 and a small grant of £250 from the Sharpe Trust,” said Mr Sladden.

“We tried four other grant-giving charities but were not successful for such a specialist request.”

But he said £5,000 could be saved if two fit, strong and keen volunteers could be found to help dismantle and re-erect the bells, which would take six days.

The plan is to dismantle on March 22 to 24 and reassemble six weeks later.

He asked anyone interested in the work to contact him for further information: “Could it be for a college student on vacation or anyone temporarily out of a job?

“When they are restored we shall hope for a new team of prospective ringers to come forth and ensure the bells carry on being rung for the next 100 years.”