At long last we have working clock chimes again!
It was originally installed to see in the new millennium, to strike hammers on nine bells that are hung dead (don’t swing) consisting of an octave of 8 bells plus the hour bell.
The bells are tuned to the key of F# Major and contain four of the original six bells that used to be rung full circle before they were restored in 1989/90.
The oldest four bells were cast at the James Keene Bell Foundry in 1626.
When they were installed, the clock chime mechanism came from Italy and was actually called “Quasimodo”and a all the instructions had been poorly translated into English, therefore programming it was difficult and just changing the time twice a year wasn’t simple!
We managed to set up the chime to play the Westminster clock chime every quarter hour and used the largest bell as the hour bell.
We also had a service bell ringing for four minutes before every service.
After some more complex programming we managed to get the chime to play hymns at intervals throughout the day.
All was working well until one day we had an electrical problem within the Church and we found that Quasimodo had lost all the programming information.
We never seemed to get it all working as it was; the Westminster clock chiming and the service bell seemed OK, but the hymns were lost forever!
Since about 2010, people had begun to notice that the chime had started to miss the odd note, which could sound quite odd.
It turned out the mechanism was wearing out so we kept patching it up again and again.
When we went back to the suppliers, we discovered that the Quasimodo Chime had been declared “end of life” about the time we bought it!
The search was now on for a replacement; this wasn’t that easy, as most clock chimes available were designed for the continental market, where bells are rung with somewhat less accuracy.
We eventually found a specialist company in Cumbria, called The Cumbria Clock Company.
They did a system that fitted our requirements, so we had them in to have a look at what we had and they confirmed that their chime control mechanism would do what we wanted.
We also got them in to do an overhaul of the church clock, as it had been playing up for years.
They did a splendid job and got it back working and reliable again.
We have to make small adjustments now and again as the weather can affect it.
We ordered the new chime and had it fitted in May last year.
Programming was still a bit unfriendly, but we could now select from a list of pre-programmed hymns to play.
We could also set it to ring “changes” like we do to the larger bells hung for full circle ringing.
We were also offered a free upgrade to their latest software once it became available; which we have just had done.
Now we have lots more hymns available and we can set everything up from a tablet computer.
Our next aim is to be able to access this tablet computer remotely across the Internet, so we can make last minute changes for special services that might need a single bell tolling for example.
The chime now plays a hymn at 08:55, 12:00, 15:00, 18:00 and 20.55 daily.
It also rings a service bell for the planned services throughout the week.
Since last May it has also been sounding the “curfew” bell.
This curfew bell once rang at nine o’clock in the evening everyday for many, many years; it was only silenced once when WW 1 broke out in 1914.
It is now ringing again at 20:57 for just two minutes everyday following the hymn.
A lot of people have mentioned how nice it is to hear the hymns again; all we need to do is make sure that we don’t play Christmas carols at Easter!