Who we areTower, Clock and Bells Appeal

Tower, clock and bells appeal

St Paulís bells have rung out over the town since before the Reformation not only for religious services and festivals but also for many national and civic occasions. The current ring of 12 bells was cast by John Taylor of Loughborough mostly in 1896/7 and is amongst the finest sounding in the country, being one of the earliest examples of true harmonic tuning. The bells and ringers at St Pauls have been pivotal to the development and advancement of the art of change ringing in the county since its inception in the early 1600s. The walls of the ringing chamber are adorned by many boards recording peals rung to commemorate national and Church events and the notable ringing achievements of the Bedford band.

Some of the tower fabric is now in a poor state of repair, and the bell installation and clock are deteriorating and in urgent need of restoration to prevent them from falling silent. The bells have become increasingly difficult to manage, and are thus less frequently rung. The heaviest eight bells hang in an oak frame at the weakest point of the tower, supported on a pine sub-frame that is badly cracked, resting on stone corbels that are shifting. The lightest four bells are hung high in the base of the spire, increasing the potential for the tower to move. The bells weigh over 7 tonnes in total and exert forces of almost 30 tonnes on the frame and tower when rung. The clock auto winding and chiming mechanisms are no longer serviceable and the drive shaft and gears to the hands are worn. Additionally, the external clock dials and hands are in need of restoration.

In 2019, encouraged by the Dorothy H Porter Trust, a requirements specification was prepared and quotations sought for a full restoration of the tower, clock and bells. Various consultations took place with an independent structural engineer, the church architect, and the DAC, and proposals were obtained from the leading firms of bell-hangers and clock engineers. The total cost of the project to restore the tower infrastructure, along with the clock and bells, and put them in good order is estimated at around £500,000.

An event, hosted by The Friends of St Paulís was held in the Church on the evening of Thursday 28th October to launch the fund-raising appeal. Currently an appeal brochure, web site, and other social media presence is being established that will provide additional information about the history of the tower, clock, and bells; also details of the appeal and its progress including how to donate and provide support to the scheme. Please check back regularly for updates.

Steve Stanford who is leading the Bells, Tower and Clock Appeal at St Paul's, talks here to local BBC Radio on the reason for the appeal and the importance of the tower, clock and bells for Bedford.