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I recently attended the dedication of White Waltham’s new bells. The church was packed, in that cosy way which only small churches can be, as if the whole village had turned out. The parish could justifiably rejoice. Their tower would speak out again, thanks in part to a generous benefactor, the ringers and Parish had managed to raise some £15,000 in a very short time towards the cost. Of this, about £1,500 was raised by the ringers of the Deanery, which was how I and other ringers came to be at the service. The service, with well known hymns and a rather hesitant organ, led up to the point where the Rector took aloft the Bishop of Reading, complete with a real crook which could have come straight from a farming museum. Through a slightly crackling loudspeaker, we first heard the Bishop dedicate the bells and then an opening prayer from the Tower Captain. The Speaker crackled off, and after what seemed a very long pause, the bells sounded forth.
A splendid tea was laid on after the service. The Rector invited non ringers to look at the bells, and at the many pictures of the previous few months’ work. Then the bells rang for another hour or so, giving many of us chance to try them. The ‘go’ of the bells and the layout of the ringing room are much improved. The old bells were somewhat of a challenge to handle and several of them required standing half in window alcoves or banging elbows on the clock case. The new bells are a delight to ring which should allow the ringers to achieve a much better standard and to teach more easily.
Listening to the bells outside, I found the person next to me had tuned the bells. He asked what I thought of his handiwork. When I said I found them a little dull and lacking brilliance, to my surprise, he agreed. He told me they would not reach their best sound for several months until the clappers bed into the bells. A new clapper has a tiny area of contact with the bell where it strikes it. The slight depression which wears in the bell where it is struck gives a much larger contact and hence a cleaner sound.
John Harrison (Nov 1989)
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