Thought for the Month – September 2015

Return of the Bells

Thought for the Month from Mike Kay

There can be few times the bells of St. Katharine’s, Blackrod have ceased to ring out during their 230-year history. The bells probably fell silent during the two world wars; we know for certain the bells were silenced in 1922 when the installation underwent a major refurbishment which included replacing the old wooden framework with steel and cast iron. We also know the bells fell silent as far back as 1885. An entry in the weekly journal ‘The Bell News’ (No. 150 [new series] – Vol. III. Saturday, February 14, 1885) reads:

Horwich (Lancashire) – As the bells of Blackrod parish church have been stopped for ten months, through the tower being considered unsafe, five of the Blackrod company paid a visit to this place on Saturday, January 31st, and with Mr. Joshua Harper, rang a 720 of Bob Minor, with four bobs and fourteen singles, in 26 mins. Also a 720 in the same method, with thirty-four bobs and two singles, in 26½mins. Richard Watmough (conductor), 1 ; John Rawlingson, 2 ; William Croston, 3 ; George Higson, 4 ; James Higson, 5 ; Joshua Harper (Horwich), 6.

I assume the problem with the tower was fixed!

In May of this year, the bells stopped ringing once again. Three years earlier, the decision was taken to ring the bells less frequently. A break in the frame put the No. 2 bell out of action. On further inspection of the whole installation, it was realised that the almost 100-year-old steel and cast-iron framework had become severely corroded due to long-term exposure to the weather. Unless acted upon, the framework and bells ran the risk of further, and potentially, more serious damage putting a stop to ringing altogether.

The PCC made the bold decision not simply to repair the damaged framework, but to commit to a full refurbishment of the installation with the intention of safeguarding the ringing of St. Katharine’s bells for at least another 100 years. The 18th May saw the start of this process with the removal of the bells, bell-gear and framework prior to transportation to John Taylor & Co. Bell Foundry in Loughborough.

On the 7th August, the fully-refurbished bells rang out once again. The parish should be very proud of its achievement in ensuring the continuation of bell ringing in our village for the call to worship, celebration and commemoration. We should also show our gratitude to the people of Blackrod for their support and generosity, without which, this project could never have been undertaken.

Mike Kay, Bell Ringers.