Time to ring out the old

It was the opportunity of a lifetime for the bellringers and parishioners of a rural Fylde church - a close-up look at the original bells which have rung out across town for 170 years.

Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 9:18 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:42 pm
Bellringers from St Michael's Church, Kirkham with one of the 170-year-old bells recently dismantled ahead of being replaced. From left: Keith Cookson, Terry Williams, Geoff Speight and Ken Jagger.

The bells of St Michael’s Parish Church, Kirkham were dismantled from the tower by specialist engineers ahead of being transported away – and bell captain Terry Williams, his fellow bellringers and other church regulars made the most of the chance to see them close up.

The majority of the eight bells are being transported to a foundry in the East Midlands, where they will be recast into a new set of 10, which are due to be brought back to town next August.

Meanwhile, the treble and Number Four bells will go to a new home at a church in Buckinghamshire, where they will augment the existing five bells.

Terry Williams, bell captain at the church, said: “It’s certainly the end of an era and it was fascinating to see the old bells close up after so many years of ringing them.

“Our local bellringers worked hard by removing wheels, clappers, ropes, stays and the like in preparation for the specialists to start the recovery process and we also invited local schoolchildren in to do some brass-rubbing in the inscriptions.

“We have been raising funds for a harmonically-tuned peal of 10 bells which will be much easier to ring than the long-established set of eight and the new set is expected to be in place in late summer next year.”

The final quarter peal for the bells which had been in place at the church since 1846 bells was sounded in October in a tribute to the 7th Battalion of the Royal North Lancashire Regiment, whose sacrifice on the fields of battle is commemorated in the church.

The tribute marked the 97th anniversary of the opening of the church’s Memorial House, which was unveiled in 1919 in memory of the men of the church who gave their lives in the First World War.

There has been a church in Kirkham since the seventh century but the present building dates from 1822 and was designed by Preston architect Robert Roper. The 46-metre high tower and spire were added in 1844 by architect Edmund Sharpe and the set of eight bells installed in 1846 by Mears and Stainbank.