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Lincoln consistory court refuses faculty for lighter bells at Haxey

31 January 2020


St Nicholas’s, Haxey

St Nicholas’s, Haxey

BELL-RINGERS at St Nicholas’s, Haxey, who requested that four lighter bells be installed in the tower to safeguard the future of ringing, have failed in their case for a faculty in the consistory court of the diocese of Lincoln.

The current ring of six bells weighs twice that of an average ring; the bells are heavier to ring than most because of their position on arched cast-iron headstocks, hung for full-circle ringing. This means that only “experienced and strong ringers [who] are generally male” can handle the bells.

“Peal dismissed”

The ringing band of St Nicholas’s had requested in March 2018 that four lighter bells be added to the tower to allow its three new learners, all women, to progress. The new ad­­di­tions would also allow children who currently have to be taught on lighter trebles elsewhere to learn the ropes at St Nicholas’s.

Even the three lightest bells pre­sented “serious handling chal­lenges”, the petitioners argued. “The weight of the bells is providing a con­­straint on the growth of the team.”

In his ruling dated February 2019, the Chancellor, Judge Mark Bishop, said that in­­stalling new bells would result in the four heaviest bells being “rung only occasionally” — an outcome that would compromise the signifi­cance of the 900-year-old Grade I listed church as “a building of special architectural and historical interest”. Three of these bells were installed in the 15th century.

The new Vicar of St Nicholas’s, the Revd Mark Zammit, met the churchwardens on Tuesday night, but said that no one, including the bell-­ringers, wished to comment on the judgment. The diocese also de­­clined to comment further.

While there was no evidence that adding the new bells would damage the fabric of the building, the peti­tioners had failed to consider re­­­hang­ing the existing bells with modern fittings as an alternative solu­tion, Judge Bishop said. More­over, the cost of hanging new bells had been “plainly” under­­estimated.

The church also features a carillon (clock machinery) that plays three hymn tunes. This, he ex­­plained, would have to be moved to accom­modate the new bells, and the ropes boxed in, requiring additional work by specialists to reset the ham­mers and the bell cranks to prevent harm­ing the carillon.

Other considerations in the 15-page judgment included how and where the new bells would be hung in the tower, access difficulties, and the effect on sound distribution. Judge Bishop agreed with the dio­cesan advisory committee, which had not supported the application, that it would be better to fit just two extra bells or rehang the existing ring of bells.

He concluded: “I have carefully considered whether the augmenta­tion +4 is a proposal that can rebut the presumption that things should remain as they are and have decided that these proposals do not. This means that the Petition for a faculty to permit augmentation to 10 bells must fail.”

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