This is taken from the report on the tower and church bells of the parish church of St. Lawrence, Bythorn by the Huntingdonshire Church Bells Restoration Society, dated 25 October 1998.

The Tower

The western tower consists of three stages surmounted by a broach spire taken down and capped in the 1950s and referred to locally and architecturally as not a happy site. The stages are, the ground floor ringing area room, the intermediate chamber and the bell chamber. Access to the intermediate floor is by a newel stair turret situated in the southeast corner of the tower. The intermediate chamber is quite small owing to the thickness of the stone walls. The floor, ie the ringing room ceiling, is in good sound condition, sitting on 4 beams laying east to west.

There is a bell access trap in the ceiling of the ringing room in the centre, unfortunately several inches short of the diameter of the tenor bell. Access to the bell chamber is by a short ladder. The bell chamber is floorless, the bell cage foundation beams are just over head height in the intermediate room. There is no electric light or power points in either floor. Both floors are bird proofed with wire mesh. There are no lifting beams above the bell cage except for the spire cap kingpost supporting timber. Access to the upper level of the bell cage can only be reached by climbing the bell cage. There is no evidence of there ever being any guides or sally beams in the ringing room. The tower once contained a church clock which struck the tenor bell on the hour. The tower is basically in a clean condition. There is a ring of four bells with the tenor bell (Great Bell) weighing 12cwt. in the key of G. the bells are sound an in good tone. They have not been rung full circle for a very long time and are a t present unringable.

The inscriptions on the bells are as follows:

Bell

Inscription

Diameter

Weight

Note

No. 1 (Treble)

Henry Bagley Made Mee 1682

30"

6 2 00

C

No. 2

Henry Penn Fusore 1711

32"

7 0 00

B

No. 3

+ Omnia Fiant Ad Gloriam Dei (Everything makes for the glory of God) 1620 N Q (Cast by Tobias Norris scrolling between words)

34

8 2 00

A

No. 4 (Tenor)

Thomas Norris Made Mee 1674 (7 upside down)

39"

12 0 00

G

The Bell Fittings

Headstocks

The bells are hung either by their cannons from timber headstocks. Nos 1, 2 & 4 have oak headstocks, No. 3 has a slightly more modern headstock of elm, which is in poor condition, the other three appear to be sound with slight infestation. The gudgeon pin on No. 3 headstock is broken.

Gudgeon Pins

Nos. 1 & 2 have hooped gudgeons secured with a single back bolt. Nos 3 & 4 have a crown ring gudgeon with double bolts.

Supporting ironwork

The bells are hung from their headstocks, secured by wrought iron cannon straps, with key bars through the cannons, and top dogs on the stocks. There are also argent U bolts around the single cannons. All ironwork is threaded with top nuts. The ironwork on Nos 3 & 4 bells is in better condition than the other two.

Bell Wheels

The rope counter wheels known as bell wheels are a one-piece pattern except No. 1 which has been replaced with a modern halving pattern, still in good condition. The remainder are in poor state. No. 3 is repairable, but Nos 2 & 4 are non-existant. All wheel stays are missing.

Stays, Sliders, Runner Boards, Latchets and Roller Boxes

Nos 1 & 2 bells have side fixing stays (long) and latchet sliders (sliding pattern) of timber. Nos 3 & 4 bells have conventional side fixing stays, straight sliders, and runner boards. They both have driven slider pins. The pulleys on all bells consist of open-ended roller boxes fixed to the pit ends with wooden pulley wheels. At least one pulley is missing, the others are in a poor state and require replacing.

The Clappers

The bells all have cast-in-crown clapper staples. The clappers, which have long flights, are worn flat at the strike point on the clapper ball. The clappers are attached by wooden baldricks.

Bell Ropes

The bell ropes are non-existent. Only one rope remains which is broken, another rope hangs in the ringing room at Keyston.

Bearings

The headstocks are mounted on plain gun-metal bearings let into the bell cage top timbers with wooden bearing covers. Two are missing. The bearings of Nos 3 & 4 appear to be sound, but the top timber around Nos 1 & 2 are eaten away and are not stable.

The Bell cage

This consists of a large oak, two tier, structure which fills the tower at this level. The two larger bells are hung in the lower section, the two smaller bells in the upper section. The frame is designed for the bells to rope down in a clockwise circle. Nos 1 & 2 bells swing west to east, Nos 3 & 4 bells swing east to west. The cage, which was built in 1682, is made up of a lower section A frame pattern with top timbers, frame braces and base beams. There are no jack braces or sub-braces at this level. The upper level consists of half-kingpost cross section frame side with top timbers and top timber post pit ends without callow ends, all with curved jack braces, which interconnect at the base forming sub-braces. There are no pit ends on the lower section. Although in two levels, the bell cage is constructed as one complete structure. The frame work although very old is solid and basically in sound condition and able to carry the weight and thrust of the bells when swung. There is some infestation, but nothing that cannot be treated. There are various bits of timber attached and fittings, which are in poor condition, that make the frame look worse than it is.

Foundation Beams

The bell cage base beams sit on 3 foundation beams laying east to west. These show signs of infestation but are in a sound state. There is an additional lower timber beam that has been put under the central foundation beam with a vertical supporting timber at the west end. This is the first thing one can see when entering the intermediate chamber, this is in a terrible, rotten state, but this beam is independent and does not carry any weight. The only thing it carries is the tenor sliding pin mounting

Approximate Cost of Repairs to the Bells

Item

Price Each

Total

Clappers

   

Quarter turn and shorten on treble and second bells

30

60

Quarter turn on third and tenor bells

15

30

New staples for treble and second bells

30

60

Drill out crown staples on treble and second bells

10

20

     

Bells

   

2 second-hand headstocks complete with bearings for treble and second bells

40

80

     

Bell Wheels

   

Supply 2 second-hand wheels

150

300

Repair one wheel

50

50

     

Other Fittings

   

Hardwood for bearing tables and building up headstocks

 

50

Bearing cover

 

10

2 flight boards

15

30

4 roller boxes

110

440

4 floor bosses

20

80

Second hand ropes

10

40

Nuts, bolts, coach screws and screws

 

50

Bearing plates

10

40

     

Paint, etc

   

Primer, undrcoat and top coat

 

50

Wood preservative

 

20

Oil, white spirit, brasso, etc

 

20

     
   

1430

The HCBRS formed in 1978 has carried out over 100 restoration rehangs and maintenance on church bells in the county of Huntindonshie, Cambridgeshire, Northants, Herts, Beds and Derbyshire and are currently restoring the bells of Orton Waterville. Our members are volunteers and contribute many skills in the ancient art of bell hanging and they work to perfection. There is no charge for the work in the tower, but all fittings supplied must be charged for. The HCBRS would be happy to carry out the work on the Bythorn Bells

C. J. Higgins, Church Bell Hanger

HCBRS