© 2019 Alex Wyatt.  

St Bartholomew's Bells

Between England winning the World Cup and NASA putting a man on the moon the burning question of the day in Lyng was how to raise the funds to keep the church bells ringing. All manner of fundraising means were employed, from salvaging scrap metal from the recently closed railway line to a grand piano smashing contest in the Village Hall garden. All this was orchestrated by the Tower Captain and his enthusiastic band of ringers. By August 1969 one bell had been recast, three had been tuned, two new bells had been purchased and all the bells were fitted with new cast iron headstocks.

 

In 1967 a routine inspection report noted that the long observed crack in the crown of the tenor bell was two feet six inches long and would soon render the bell unringable. The progress of the crack had been recorded with chalk marks on the surface of the bell for over 50 years. The bell founders at Whitechapel had estimated the likely ringable life of the bell to be 10 years in 1954. The other four bells were also in a poor state of repair and badly out of tune with each other. The bell frame, which had been installed in 1905 had spaces for 6 bells but the tower only held 5. Knowing that the removal, re-casting and re-hanging of the tenor bell was a major operation in itself it was decided to take the opportunity to refurbish and tune the entire ring and if possible augment it with an additional bell. This would require the raising of approximately £1200, a colossal sum at the time for such a small village.

 

Fundraising began with the collection of the scrap metal, particularly the metals from which bells are made. Bell metal is a unique alloy made up of 78% copper and 22% tin. The metal collected included a significant amount of copper signalling wire recovered from the recently closed railway line through the village (with the permission of British Rail) and the railings from the recently closed village school.


Various items ranging from a tractor donated by Taunton Rugby club to the apples from the vicarage garden were sold. Skittle weeks, jumble sales, whist drives, bingo and Carol singing all helped swell the coffers over the next two years. The undoubted highlight of the fundraising effort was the piano smashing contest held in the Village Hall garden. Six donated upright pianos were each parked next to an apple tree from which was hanging a mini tyre. Teams of two men with sledge hammers were allocated to each piano, the smashed remains of which had to pass through the mini tyre in the fastest time possible. The contest was won by a couple of foreigners from Durston but the second and third placed pairs were drawn from the Lyng bellringing team.

 

The final ring of the old bells took place on Easter Sunday 1969. They were then dismantled and transported to the Whitechapel bell foundry on a lorry provided by a local hay and straw merchant. When the re-casting and tuning work got under way it was found that the treble bell could not be tuned to the same key as the rest. The Chancellor of the Diocese would not allow this ancient bell dated 1609 to be re-cast so has become a permanent ornament in the centre of the ringing chamber.

 

This meant that the only way to achieve the objective of populating all six bays in the 1905 frame was to raise a further £321 and buy a second new bell. With the aid of a grant of £250 this was achieved and the re-furbished, re-tuned, recast and replaced ring of six bells were dedicated and rang out for the first time on Saturday the 23rd of August 1969.

 

To commemorate the magnificent achievement of the previous generation of ringers the current team will ring some of the traditional Lyng music on the afternoon of Saturday the 24th of August following a short re-dedication service.