The Andover District has been at the forefront of the belfry restoration “catalogue” in 1996, though only two major restoration schemes were undertaken in the Guild during the year. At St. Thomas of Canterbury, Tangley the ring of five was overhauled and rehung in the old frame, with all new fittings. A new treble was added in a supplementary metal frame underneath the existing ring. Work here had commenced in late 1995, Eayre and Smith undertaking the main work with Whitechapel providing the new bell. Local ringers have made considerable efforts to balance the sound of the bells within and outside the tower, and the District now has a nice light six to add to its armoury. Meanwhile St. Peter’s Church at St. Marybourne have had their six bells overhauled and rehung by Whites of Appleton. The Church authorities here are to be congratulated on fully funding the project. The BRF commitment to All Saints, Catherington (6) - [Portsmouth District] was also discharged early in the year following previous completion of tower masonry repairs. On a more minor scale work was completed in the Andover District at St Mary the Virgin with St. John the Baptist, Newtown (4) near Newbury (pulley and clapper overhaul by Whites of Appleton) and at The Ascension, Burghclere (wheel repairs - believed to have been undertaken by Eayre and Smith). Nearby at Kingsclere, ringers continue with fundraising towards a major restoration project involving the eight bells at St. Mary’s Church. It is understood that problems at St. Mary’s, Upton Grey where structural and timberwork repairs in the tower have been ongoing for some time have now been resolved to a point where Guild/BRF involvement has concluded.

Concerns about the stability of the Tower at All Saints, Deane in the Basingstoke District curtailed ringing during the year. It is hoped that these problems may be receding with a clearer understanding of the nature of the oscillation that occurs when the bells are rung, and of the best approaches to glazing and related building maintenance matters appropriate to these circumstances. Elsewhere in the Basingstoke District, All Saints, Odiham completed the last formal stages of their plans for a complete rehanging and restoration of the six bells including retuning and possibly recasting the tenor. This work will commence early in 1997.

Looking to the future, the announcement of substantial support available for bell restoration from the Millennium Fund has, not surprisingly, prompted a number of parishes to consider restoration projects. These will no doubt progress during the coming year and further vindicate the Guild’s timely decision to increase fund raising effort for the BRF, which will no doubt be called upon in large measure in the coming two or three years. Current proposals include work at Hurstbourne Priors (6) (rehanging in a new frame) and Whitchurch (8) (partial rehanging and possible augmentation to ten by adding two tenors). Work is also planned at Brown Candover (a major project involving the existing, virtually unringable, five and probably also the tower structure), and at Headbourne Worthy (3) (a Mediaeval ring in an original frame of circa AD 1420). At Hawkley (8) there are plans to recast the tenor as a heavier bell more appropriate musically to the rest of the ring while at Botley it is understood that there is a proposal to rehang the existing three and augment to five or six. On the Isle of Wight, Shorwell (5) intend a full rehang and finally at All Saints, Alton, plans to augment the three bells to six are well advanced, with prospective band members already under training in an imaginative scheme involving a commendable partnership with a number of neighbouring District towers. 1997 looks like being an exciting year!

Phil Watts