Audlem St James Bell Restoration Appeal
Introduction to the bells of St James, Audlem
Audlem bells were cast in 1736 by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester, and hung in an oak frame by Mr Snead (probably John Sneyd, who also hung bells at other towers in the area, such as Newcastle under Lyme). In 1891 the bells were rehung in the same frame, with new fittings. In the 1990’s, the bearings and pulleys were replaced. The bells are still in reasonable condition but the frame and fittings now need complete refurbishment.
The six bells all have inscriptions. The weight, musical note, and inscription for each bell are given below. (The spelling is taken from the bells; and the weights are given in hundredweight (cwt): 1cwt is about 50Kg.)
- Treble – 4.25cwt, F#. When you me ring, I’le sweetly sing
- 2nd – 4.5cwt, E. Peace and good neighbourhood
- 3rd – 5cwt, D. Prosperity to this parish
- 4th – 5.5cwt, C#. May the Church of England for ever flourish
- 5th – 7cwt, B. Abel Rudhall of Glocester cast us all
- Tenor – 9cwt, A. I to the church the living call and to the grave do summon all
In 2020 an inspection by three different specialists recommended that it is time for the bells and frame to have a major overhaul, to prevent them becoming unringable in a few years. The bells need to be removed from the frame, lowered to the ground and taken to the bell founders, where they will be refurbished and given a complete new set of fittings. Whilst the bells are out of the tower, major problems with the bell frame must be resolved. The frame is moving as the bells swing, and this could eventually damage the tower structure. It may be possible to save the frame, by strengthening and perhaps underpinning it, or it may have to be replaced. We are getting a report from a structural engineer, to decide what is to be done. When the work is complete, the bells and the bell ringing in the village will then be saved.
The ABRA appeal
We need to raise funds to undertake this work and to make sure that the bells will last into the next century. The total cost will be between £45,000 and £77,000, depending on what has to be done about the frame, and we could reduce the cost by up to £11,000 by the use of local volunteers. Please consider a donation to help preserve our ancient village tradition and if you are able to give your time or help with physical labour then please register your interest.
You can donate at JustGiving.com or with a cheque made payable to to Audlem PCC and endorsed ‘Bell Restoration’ on the rear. Post to ABRA, c/o Willow Farm, Bunsley Bank, Audlem, CW3 0HS. Please remember that your donation can be gift aided which increases its value by 25%. This can be done using this form.
Latest news from the Project
Following the meeting of the DAC in December, where replacement of the bell frame was discussed, we have been asked to provide robust evidence that removal of the existing frame is necessary. After all it is nearly 300 years old and the church is a Grade 1 listed building. To this end we have instructed a stuctural engineer to survey the frame and any effect it may be having on the tower. To do this he needs all 6 bells to be rung, and of course because of covid restrictions, we are unable to comply at the moment. Hopefully this situation will change soon.
The technical team will soon be deciding the preferred supplier. This is an exciting moment for the project as we commit ourselves to the bell hangers who will deliver the expertise to get the job done. We continue to work with the PCC developing the church Faculty and hope that the our plans will be discussed at the CoE Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) on 18th December. We are investigating how to apply for a generous grant from the Chester Diocese Guild of Church Bell Ringers who are meeting on 7th January 2021.