Bell restoration work has been happening at St Michael’s Brough at the end of last year, gaining much public and press interest. But the big talking point is whether the tower can claim to be the heaviest ring of four bells in the World.
Ron East comments that in a multi-phase project, phase I, was removing the bells, with the number 3 bell and the tenor turned on their sides to get them out of the church.
The project has been 7 years in the making. The community raised £10,000 for the restoration project when it was launched and, because of some sad circumstances that followed, I eventually wrote the application to the NLHF that awarded a grant of £67,000 (thank heavens for lock down – writing that application took a lot of time!).
Phase II is to take down the old floor and beams with the frame raised up on the lifting beams. Phase III is inserting concrete aprons for the installation of a new galvanised steel framework and phase IV is inserting the steelwork, lowering the frame onto it and inserting a new floor. Finally the bells will be returned with new headstocks, wheels, stays etc and the frame strengthened.
We were offered two trebles at no cost by the Keltek Trust that would have made a six but the PCC turned the offer down, wanting to keep their claimed heaviest ring of four bells – and so it has been proved.
The competition to be the heaviest ring of four in the World was tight….
The Keltek Trust continues the story:
“During May 2019 a “large” bell located in Wrexham was offered for sale on ebay. Little details were given apart from a diameter of 34” and cast by Mears & Stainbank in 1868. It looked a possible treble bell for Brough, Cumbria should the PCC decide to augment their ring of four to six. A couple of months later Matthew Higby was in the area and able to give the bell a look-over; telephone conversations between Matthew, the seller and myself resulted in a mutually agreeable price and Matthew loaded the bell into his van and brought it back to his workshop.
A full inspection showed it would be suitable as the 2nd of six and would go with an ex-Lindfield bell we had already offered as the treble of six. The PCC at Brough had mixed views about augmentation. It had been long believed that they had the heaviest ring of four in the World with an estimated weight of 19cwt. However there were several other contenders: Combs & Catworth with estimated weights of 18cwt and East Quantoxhead with an accurate weight of 17-0-8. My own calculations suggested a weight of 16.75cwt which is under the accurate weight for East Quantoxhead.
In the meantime the contenders for the heaviest ring of four were reducing; the ring at Catworth was augmented to six and when weighed the tenor came down from 18cwt to 15-0-22. The heavy four at Combs, Suffolk have been re-hung as a chime and when weighed it also reduced from an estimated weight of 18cwt to 16-2-20. This left East Quantoxhead with an accurate weight of 17-0-8 and Brough with estimated weights of 19cwt (Dove) and 16.75cwt (mine).
After much deliberation Brough PCC decided to stick with the four-bell scheme and their appeal to “Restore the heaviest ring of four in the world.” Just under a month ago the bells were removed and weighed. The tenor bell has been weighed for the first time in 500 years and weighs 17 cwt 2 qt 12lbs and Brough has been confirmed as having the heaviest ring of four bells in the World.”
Dave Kelly, Secretary, Keltek Trust[Kindly reproduced from Keltek Trust news, 2022, no.14]