Cromer’s bells are now ringing for services and every Thursday evening as we learn to ring the full octave. They sound wonderful, even if we still struggle sometimes to do them justice. A number of people have approached us and are starting to learn to ring, and in time we will advertise more widely to invite people in Cromer to try it out. If you like the idea of mastering an art unique in the world, and being part of creating the haunting and evocative sound of church bells, then this may be for you. Learning to ring in traditional English full circle style is absorbing and demanding, excellent exercise in the society of a group that encourages and supports new learners.
The project formally comes to an end on Sunday November 30th when the bells will be rededicated by Bishop Jonathan Meyrick, Suffragen Bishop of Lynn, at the evening service at 6.30 pm. All are welcome on this joyous occasion – and if you are passing, listen out for the bells beforehand. We hope many of the people who so generously supported our efforts over the last two years will come and celebrate our achievements with us.
Cromer bells came back to the town on Monday 16th June, augmented by two new bells cast by the Whitechapel bell foundry. On a grey day there were dozens of Cromer citizens out to see the bells lined up in the church yard. This photo shows the team of people who have worked for months to prepare for this day.
Six bells went away and eight have returned, so Cromer now has a full octave to do justice to its magnificent church and belfry. The two new bells were sponsored in memory of loved ones who gave much to the community duing their lives. The new treble bell was donated by Joan and Gilbert Larter of Happisburgh in memory of their friend Tony Baines, bellhanger of Diss. Tony spent years working on bell frames in the UK and abroad, and gave generously and freely of his time to renovate bells in Norfolk. The whole family were there to see his bell arrive, led by Betty Baines MBE, in a very moving moment in time. The new number 2 bell was donated by David Leeder, a ringer of Cromer and one time tower captain, in memory of his parents, Mark and Norah. Mark Leeder, a skilled joiner, made furniture still in use in the church today and Norah was treasurer of the Mothers’ Union and a member for 40 years. David is in Canada so was in touch from afar. He was a vital member of the volunteer team who worked to remove the bells in January and ever since on preparing for their return, and will be welcomed back to Cromer in time for the dedication of the bells in November.
We took the opportunity to ‘name’ the older bells with dedications which reflect the place of the bells in the town over the centuries. So we now have:
The Cromer Carnival Bell, the lightest and brightest of the old six celebrating summer joys
The Ringers’ Bell, on which generations of ringers have learnt the basics of their art
The Stranger’s Bell, marking the welcome there has always been for visitors and those who join Cromer’s church and wider commnity
The Cromer Lifeboat Bell, the first of the heavy bells, to remember the dark times of danger and rescue where the bells sounded both the alarm and the celebration of safe return
The Service Bell, Cromer’s medieval bell cast in 1499 and rung in the church ever since to call all to worship
The Cromer Town Bell, sounding the hours for the town clock and the deepest note of all the bells
The bells stood in the church through Tuesday 17th June to give all who visited a last chance to see them before they return to the belfry on Wednesday. It will be (we hope!) another 100 years before they are seen like this again.
The Eastern Daily Press was there – see http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/cromer_parish_church_to_welcome_back_the_sound_of_its_bells_as_they_return_after_refurbishment_1_3645264
Following the success of last year’s Grand Plant Sale it will be held again on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5th, 11.00 – 3.00 in Cromer Parish Church. Come and buy potted, rooted perennials and annuals for your garden . The Sale is in one of the last two big events of 2014 to raise money for the Bells Project.
Home made cakes and teas are also on the menu. Admission is free and there will be the opportunity to climb the tower and see Cromer from above – and also the empty spaces to where the bells will return we hope in June.
Cromer’s two new treble bells were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in January. The bell sponsors and others were there to watch a scene which would have been much the same when our five 19th century bells were cast there in 1874. The molten bell metal (heated these days by electricity), a brilliant gold liquid in the ladle, was hoisted smoothly across the foundry floor to the waiting moulds. The operator turned the small wheel fixed to the ladle and we watched the metal pour in in a glittering stream into the open top of the mould until a small pool in the top showed the mould was full.
Each bell was cast in a specially made mould whose contours were designed to match those of the Victorian bells. They would have taken several days to cool, and then the moulds were broken open and odd bits of metal smoothed off.
The next stage of work was the tuning of the bells. All seven of the ‘younger’ bells are being tuned to match Cromer’s medieval bell, so the complete ring of eight will be a harmonious whole. The process involves the careful removal of metal in rings from the inside of the bells, with the developing pitches closely monitored on Whitechapel’s computer system. Not only the main tones but also partial tones are tuned in this process, as metal is removed from particular parts of the bell. The aim is to optimise the overall musicality of the bells, while retaining the essentially medieval sound of the oldest bell as the unifying feature of the peal.
Cromer bells left the tower in January 2014 after a year of fundraising gave sufficient confidence to start the project. A team of volunteers helped lower the six bells through a drop of nearly 40 metres from the belfry. The bells had to be manoeuvred down through three trap doors, a potentially hair-raising task but superbly and calmly supervised by Graham Clifton, of Whites of Appleton.
They were brought out to be lined up in front of the church, where on a breezy day there was a steady stream of Cromer people stopping to see some last minute work on the bells. After some very skilled manoevring by Scott on the forklift, the Pike Partnership very kindly provided the transport to take the bells to Oxfordshire.
We do not have a date yet for when the bells (with two new ones) return to Cromer, but we think it will be late May/June 2014.
See the Cromer Bells Restoration Project page for a full description of the project
See Fundraising Events for more about this splendid evening.
It was the culmination of a great few months as the combined impact of events, grants, donations and sponsorship for two new bells and for some of the special fittings brought us in sight of our target for the project. We have just two more big fundraising events in 2014. There will be a huge book sale in the parish hall on 7th and 8th April with 10.000 books and our very successful Grand Plant Sale in the church returns for a second year on the early Spring Bank Holiday Monday, May 5th.
The faculty for the work was granted by the Diocesan Chancellor just before Christmas, and we feel confident that we can raise the remaining funds in 2014. The PCC has taken the decision to start the work and the contract has been placed with Whites of Appleton who start work in January. We will be posting pictures and progress reports as the project continues until we have eight bells ringing again mid-year.
September has been a good month for fundraising. We acknowledge with thanks a grant of £2000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation towards the Cromer Bells project, We have also had a concert given by King Henry’s Band, thanks to the generosity of its founder and chief player, Robert Fitzgerald.
We are now aiming for a last big push to raise the funds to take us to our target of £70,000. Taking into account the events still to come (and they will run up to mid 2014) we need to raise a further £10,000. A large amount, but we have come so far……..