All Saints' Kempston Bell Ringers

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The 1976 Re-hanging scheme    

Part of the old frame which had been in use in various forms since at least the 17th century had, unfortunately, to be cut away to accommodate the 8-bell layout and the frame was greatly weakened.  Since 1947 there had been a gradual deterioration of the frame.  The very hot summer of 1976 caused the timbers to shrink and the frame became loose in the joints.  Also, the ends of the massive oak beams which supported and tied-in the frame to the tower walls, had rotted away.  The result was an action rather like a giant battering ram of some 6 tons in weight against the inside tower walls, each time the bells were rung.  It also made the bells difficult and unpredictable to ring.  It became increasingly apparent that unless something was done the bells would be silent after ringing the faithful to worship for more than six centuries

The old bell frame

In September 1976 the ringers approached the parochial church council who agreed that a feasibility study should be made for a re-hanging scheme.  In the November of that year the inaugural meeting of the Kempston Parish Church Bells Appeal Committee was held.  Mr. J.C.W. Hobkirk was approached in December and agreed to become Chairman of the Committee.

Plans were drawn up by Clifford Izzard for a replacement iron and steel frame.  The new frame was designed to accept two new bells, the ringers hoping that money could be found in the not too distant future to make Kempston All Saints a ten bell tower feeling as Canon Barker did in 1946 that we should not only replace what was already there, but we should make provision for the future.  This would make Kempston the fourth tower in Bedfordshire to contain a ring of at least 10 bells, the others being Bedford St. Paulís, Luton St. Mary's and Leighton Buzzard All Saints, all boasting 12 bells each.

A house-to-house collection organised by Richard Hillson was made throughout the parish which, together with donations by individuals and organisations, raised £5,000.  Various fund raising events were organised which included an Arts and Crafts Festival, a Grand Draw, a Car Rally and Treasure Hunt, Dances, Jumble Sales and Coffee Evenings etc., and, in all, a total of £8,500 was raised.  Whilst the fund raising events were underway, the frame was being constructed by the ringers and friends in the Works of Hobkirk Castings Ltd.  This took six months of evening and weekend working.

The last peal on the bells in the old frame was rung on the 24th May and the bells were rung for the last time for Evensong on Sunday 4th June 1978.  During the period June to December the bells and frame were removed from the tower, the bells transported to J. Taylor of Loughborough, and the new frame installed by the ringers.

 

   

The bells being removed from the tower to be transported to Taylors in Loughborough

With the old frame removed, full access was available to the inside walls of the tower and during this period extensive repairs to the stonework were carried out by Messrs.  Devereux and Smith.  The retuned bells and new iron headstocks, bearings, clappers, pulleys and sliders and rebuilt wheels were collected from Loughborough on the 11th December 1978 and the bells raised into the new frame on Saturday, 27th January.  Because of the repositioning of the bells within the tower, it was also necessary to replace the ringing room ceiling.

The new bell frame and restored bells were dedicated by the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt.  Revd.  Alec Graham, at a service on Thursday, 22nd February 1979.  This was the culmination of four years' work by many people and is by far the largest "Do It Yourself" exercise ever undertaken by parishioners in connection with the church.

 

 

Pictures of the new bell frame

So at the beginning of 1979 the bells of All Saints rang out once more in a new installation that, if properly maintained, should last for many centuries. 

Reproduced from All Saints' Parish Church Kempston: A History © C.R.Parrott 1979