south weald bell ringing
St Peter's Church TowerA Tour Of Our Tower

Welcome to our church and especially to the tower where we ring.  Here we will take you on a brief tour of our tower.

 

The origins of St. Peter's dates back to the 12th Century.  By the mid 13th century the chancel was rebuilt and and a north aisle added which was rebuilt in the 15th century. The tower itself was built at the beginning of the 16th century, during the reign of Henry VII. In 1868  major restoration and rebuilding work changed the plan of the church but the impressive 12th Century doorway can be seen still.

 

Entrance to the towerThe main church building has flint-rubble walls with bands of freestone.  The tower is built of dressed stone work. The entrance to the tower can be found inside the church at the foot of the tower on the right.   If you  look up, before you go through the door, you will be able to see the trap door through which the bells are passed, from the bell chamber via the ringing room, if they need to be removed for any reason.  You will also see a single rope hanging down.  This rope can be used by the Vicar or VerThe door to the ringing chamberger to strike our number 5 bell to call people to worship when we are not there to ring the bells from the ringing room.   Looking around the walls you will see a number of monuments.  These were moved from the main church at the time of the rebuilding work in the 19th century.  There are several interesting inscriptions and they are definitely worth a read.

 

There Ropes on the spiderare 46 steps up to the ringing room where we meet to ring the bells.  Inside you will see the ropes coming down from the bell chamber above.  When the bells are not being rung, the ropes are kept out of the way by hooking the ends on what is known as a spider which is then raised to the ceiling. 

 

There are benches around the walls with comfortable cushions made by Beth.  Here members of the band will sit if they are not ringing.

 

Historic boards at St PetersIn many towers you will see boards formally celebrating successful peal attempts.  However at St. Peter's, as well as photos showing past outings there are some very historic boards recording bequeaths and benefactions to aid the poor of the parish . 

 

St Peters Church clock mechanismThe ringing room is also the home of St. Peter's Church clock.  This was made by Gillett and Johnson and, until the bells were augmented in 1988, had to be wound by hand once a week.  It is now wound automatically which saves a lot of effort.  The clock chimes off the bells which are struck with hammers when the bells are in the down position. Before we can ring the bells 'full circle' the striking mechanism must be disengaged to prevent nasty, mangled metal up in the belfry!  The clock strikes the hour on the tenor bell (the largest) and the half hour and quarters are struck on the other bells.

 

The steps up to St Peters belfryAgainst the wall, in the corner of the room, there are ropes coming down from the bell chamber above.  These are part of an old carillon which is used to chime the bells with hammers.  The sound produced does not match the full sound obtainable by ringing the bells full circle and is rarely used nowadays. 

 

We can now leave the ringing room and climb the 23 steps up to the belfry or bell chamber above.  Up until 1988 we had six bells but at the end of 1988 the old wooden frame was replaced with a modern cast iron construction and two new bells added to complete the octave.  The other bells were serviced and tuned and the headstocks were replaced.  All this work was completed by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.  The bells have various inscriptions and dedications and the details can be found on the pages about the bells.

 

The treble bell at St Peters South WealdThe bells of St Peters South WealdThe picture left shows our treble bell in the "down" position.  You can see all the main components that make up a bell hung for ringing full circle; the clapper, the wheel, the headstock, the stay and the slider.  You can also see the hammer, in the bottom right of the picture, which is used for chiming.    A good diagram and glossary of the terms for bell components can be found on the Central Council's web site.  In addition to the main bells there is a light bell that could be used as a service bell but it is pretty much redundant now.

 

The roof of St Peters Tour South WealdOn leaving the bell chamber there are a further 37 steps up to the roof of the tower.  The views are quite spectacular and on a clear day the London Eye can be seen.  Unfortunately due to health and safety consideration, tours to the top of the tower, which were a regular feature of our Patronal Festival, were cancelled.  However, these were reinstated in 2009 with the installation of a suitable fencing arrangement paid for by the Friends of St. Peter's.  One view from the tower can be seen below.  You can see our most convenient watering hole, the Tower Arms.  You can see we don't have too far to go for refreshment after our practices!

 

 

View from the tower