Ringing in the changes as centuries old bells are restored

A team of volunteers remove church bells that have been in the bell tower of All Saints Church, Bolton Percy near York since 1603. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire
A team of volunteers remove church bells that have been in the bell tower of All Saints Church, Bolton Percy near York since 1603. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire
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THREE huge bells weighing in at over two tons sit outside the grade-I listed All Saints Church in Bolton Percy, under the crisp winter sun, for the first time in 400 years.

A team of volunteers, working with a specialist bell hanger, spent a day and a half removing the bells, which were installed in the tower progressively from 1603, so they can receive much-needed restoration work.

The bells are painstakingly removed from the tower. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire

The bells are painstakingly removed from the tower. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire

While the bells themselves date back four centuries, some of the fittings and the bell frame they were sat in actually dated back to medieval times, when the church was built in 1424.

Alan Swain, who is chairman of the Friends of All Saints Church and one the four-men bell restoration team, said the project - which has been mainly funded by the Friends group - would cost around £21,000, and would also include restoration of the clock mechanism that dates back to the 1960s.

He said the brass bells were at risk in two ways - they were attached to the bell frame using welded iron hooks, which could cause the bells to fracture; and as the original “full circle” style mechanism had failed, the bells were being rang with a series of pulleys and clappers, which could also cause damage.

The wooden works were full of woodworm and rotten, caused in part by weather damage through the old tower roof.

“The old iron staples are being removed, and new bearings fitted to the bells, which will take away the strain,” he said. “A new ringing mechanism is also being installed which will de-risk the bells and make sure they are good for the next 500 years.”

Mr Swain, along with volunteers Ian Connolly, Martin Rice and Malcolm Harrison, worked with a specialist from bell restorers Whites of Appleton to remove the bells, with all the work done by hand. The restoration project should take around ten weeks to complete.

The church itself has been a hotbed of restoration over recent years, after hundreds of thousands of pounds was raised for a new roof on both the nave and the tower.