Give the man a clap(per)


John Gurney, Tower Keeper and Church Surveyor of St Mary’s Church, has been up in the belfry and deserves a clap. With him he had a new bell clapper, made by John Taylor & Co, bell-founders of Loughborough to be fitted inside the great tenor bell, which weighs in at just short of twenty hundredweight, a ton.

The old clapper lay beside it, snapped cleanly at the top of the shaft with “basically metal fatigue”, said John, “They used to be made of wrought iron and lasted for years, but no one does that work any more on an anvil and a charcoal-fired forge. This one was made of cast steel and went after about only ten years.

“The sheer weight of the clapper, subject to repeated impact, would find out the least minuscule imperfection in the steel and cause it eventually to shear. While I’m about it”, he added, “I apologise for the church boiler being up the creek, so wear an extra layer when you come to church – it should be working again by Christmas. Apparently, the boiler itself is in good order, but the flue was hit by a gale force wind”.

A rather noisy industrial heater has been blasting away before services to take the chill out of the 12th century Norman church, but has had to be turned off once the service started as the ancient acoustics are variable.

The church clock however, with its long pendulum hanging down into the nave, is still swinging away and is believed be one of, if not the, oldest working church clock of its type in the world.


The broken clapper and its new replacement
The broken clapper and its new replacement

Photos: Kenneth Bird

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