16th September 2015

Towers & Belfries

This Committee’s main role is as an advisory body to ringers, parishes and other bodies, with architects, bell historians, surveyors and engineers included in its membership. Advice is given on many aspects and these include belfry maintenance, loose frames, cracked bells, re-hanging, sound management, cracked towers, augmentations and the monitoring and measurement of moving towers. As well as carrying out inspections all over the country and dealing with some queries by post or email, members give their services as lecturers and instructors on belfry maintenance courses. In addition, it organises technical seminars on bell maintenance, restoration and other allied subjects that may be requested by tower captains, steeple-keepers and other ringers. The Committee also produces books, booklets and pamphlets for publication by the Council.

Committee Chairman

David Kirkcaldy
27 Hills Road, Steyning BN44 3QG, UK

The Chairman will deal with a Parochial Church Council’s letter of formal request himself, or he will pass it to a Towers and Belfries Committee Member living in the locality from which the request was made, or to a Towers and Belfries Committee Member who has special knowledge in relation to the PCC’s particular request.

Committee members

Roland Backhurst BSc Dip Sys Eng (Bath and Wells Diocesan Association)
James Clarke (Devonshire Guild)
George Dawson BSc (Southwell and Nottingham Diocesan Guild)
Alan Frost LVO AADip RIBA DCHM (Life Member)
Alison Hodge (Worcestershire and Districts Association)
David Kirkcaldy (Sussex County Association) Chairman
Christopher Povey BSc CEng MICE MCIWEM (Four Shires Guild)
David Roskelly BEng (Veronese, Associazione Suonatori di Campane a Sistema)
Bernard Stone (Oxford Society) Secretary
Colin Ward (Hereford Diocesan Guild)

The early days of the Committee

The Towers and Belfries Committee came into existence in 1912 to fulfil a particular function i.e. to discuss with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings some questions relating to bell frame design and installation. However the Council’s very first publication in 1892 was a “Handbook on Preservation and Repair of Bells, Frames and Fittings”. The first Committee consisted of Sir A P Heywood, the Rev C D P Davies, J H B Hesse, E H Lewis and E A Young. Much of their early work was published by Heywood in “Bell Towers and Bell Hanging”.

Recent work

  • Provision of information about, and advice on, the internal and external acoustics of church towers with bells rung full-circle for English change ringing.
  • Provision of both procedural information and, separately, technical information for PCC principal officers and ringers in respect of any proposal made to install radio aerials and telecommunications equipment in a church tower.
  • Provision of Towers and Belfries Committee technical and procedural information on the Internet at the web site of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.
  • Investigation of the effects on towers of the inertia forces produced by church bells rung full-circle for English change ringing.

The Committee’s Terms of Engagement

Advice may be sought, and is freely offered, on all aspects of bells, bell hanging, bell towers and bell maintenance. The only provisos are that a letter of formal request is received from a principal officer of the Parochial Church Council, specifically the Incumbent, a Churchwarden, the PCC Secretary or the PCC Treasurer, and that in it an undertaking is given to pay reasonable out of pocket expenses.

The letter of formal request should be addressed to the Chairman, who will suggest the Member appropriate to take on the case, or to a Member. The arrangements as to the date and time of visit are best conducted with the Member who accepts the case. It will be appreciated that, if a Member’s services are called upon and they are given voluntarily, there may be slight delays before the Member can find time to make the visit and before the report is received. Best efforts will be made to meet specific deadlines if they are made clear within the letter of formal request.

Due to the increasing cost of the Personal Accident Insurance carried by the CCCBR to cover Committee members undertaking on-site inspections, a £10 charge will be added to the expenses claimed from the Parochial Church Council by the Committee member undertaking the inspection. The member will subsequently pass this £10 amount to the Honorary Treasurer of the CCCBR.

The form of Committee advice

A Member of the Committee will inspect the bell installation and tower, will write an unbiased comprehensive report for the PCC on what has been seen and will answer questions to the best of his or her ability.

Unless permission is denied, a copy of the report will be passed to the Committee’s Chairman for the time being, to be kept in a central file. The report will be regarded as confidential between the Towers and Belfries Committee and the principal officer of the PCC requesting the report. It will contain the standard disclaimer concerning advice given by the Committee. The fixed form of the standard disclaimer is given in the following paragraph.

The standard Disclaimer concerning advice given by the Committee

Attention is drawn to the fact that while reports and advice are given in good faith they are given gratuitously and without reward and no liability can be accepted by the Member or the Towers and Belfries Committee or the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers in respect of the contents of such reports and advice. A report by a Member of the Committee is provided for the sole use of the Parochial Church Council and it must not be passed to or copied to or used by or relied upon by any third party.

Specific professional advice

If more detailed professional help is needed, it may be that one of the professionally qualified members of the Committee will be prepared to give it, but anything more than the visit and report outlined above is likely to attract normal professional fees. Separate negotiations for such help must be carried out with the individual directly and are of no concern to the Committee.

Specialised publications about Towers and Belfries

The Council has produced several publications relevant to the Committee’s work, written by present and former Members.

  • The Towers and Belfries Committee, a fan-folded information card similar to this web page.
  • *The Towers and Bells Handbook, an illustrated hardback covering all aspects of bell towers and bell hanging.
  • The Faculty Jurisdiction, A Guide For Ringers.
  • A Bells Project from First Principles, an information card.
  • The Bell Adviser, a paperback directed to those giving advice about bells.
  • Sound Management, a booklet for ringing masters on the internal and external acoustics of towers.
  • The Maintenance Handbook, a paperback for the person in charge of day-to-day care of bells.
  • *A Schedule of Regular Maintenance, a paperback for the person in charge of day-to-day care of bells.
  • *A Practical Analysis of the Interaction between Church Bells and Towers, a technical addition to the range.
  • Tower Changes, guidelines on procedure for work to bells and bell equipment.

* These may be obtained from Central Council Publications, Mrs B Wheeler, 2 Orchard Close, Morpeth NE61 1XE, UK.

Articles accessible online

Several of the Committee’s articles are accessible on the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers’ web site. Links are also provided to external sites with relevant information.

Further articles by the Committee will be added to the Central Council’s web site in due course.

Annual Reports

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