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Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Sunday 9th September was an ideal day to welcome the public to the tower as part of the church’s contribution to Heritage Open Days, which are intended to give access to places not normally open to the public. Although almost everyone is familiar with the sound of ringing, few have ventured inside a bell tower.
The tower was open all afternoon during which time 87 people climbed the stairs each level of the tower. In the ringing room they learnt about the history of English style ringing, saw a model of a bell and fittings, saw how a bell is rung and viewed historic pealboards. In the clock room they learnt the history of the 1817 Thwaites & Reed clock and saw the DIY acoustic treatment to reduce reverberation. In the bell chamber they learned how the bells are hung and fitted into the tower, saw (and heard) a bell in action, and experienced the effect of the sound control. On the roof they enjoyed splendid views of the churchyard, the town and the distant scene before descending all 90 steps back to the porch.
We first took part in Heritage Open Days in 2006, shortly after the bells & tower restoration, and I wondered about the event’s origin. It’s advertised as: ‘England's largest festival of history and culture’, and was established in 1994 as England's contribution to European Heritage Days – a joint action between the Council of Europe and European Commission that involves 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention.
The idea originated in France with La Journée Portes Ouvertes (day of open doors) in 1984, and it then spread to other countries, many of which adopted a similar name. Wales has Open Doors Day, Scotland has Doors Open Day, Northern Ireland has European Heritage Open Days but England just has Heritage Open Days.
There is a lot more information about the tower and ringing on the tower website: allsaintswokinghambells.org.uk/
John Harrison (September 2018)
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