• Alison Hodge
    88
    These comments follow the discussion started under "keeping churches open" about the environment and conditions in towers, and how they should be maintained and checked.

    I suggest that there are 2 slightly separable issues in this -
    - the environment in the church and ringing room ie where the ringers stand
    - the condition of the bell installation itself
    In many towers, a welcoming environment in the ringing room will often mean that the ringers care and that the bells themselves will also be maintained in a good technical condition.

    We have prepared some suggestions about "Tower environments....." - these are available on the CCCBR website here: https://cccbr.org.uk/resources/stewardship-and-management/ on the Tower Operations tab and Tower Infrastructure tab. First impressions count and may strongly influence potential ringers and returning ringers, as well as where regular ringers will choose out of preference to ring with their fellow ringers.

    Regarding the condition of the bell installation, this will often determine how well the bells go and whether ringing is seen as fun or really challenging.

    There are assumptions by some ringers and church authorities that the quinquennial (ie 5 yearly) church inspection, will include a detailed and comprehensive check of the bell installation and all the fittings. However, it is unusual for the person doing such an inspection to have much knowledge of bells or bell ringing. Note that no professional should ever comment beyond their areas of knowledge and expertise. So in many cases, the quinquennial report will simply make a comment about the overall visual impression of the cleanliness in the tower for example, along with some basic easily found facts observed or taken from other documents, such as number of bells etc. Sometimes reports will simply state that the inspector could not comment, perhaps because they could not access the bell chamber.

    For other parts of the church infrastructure, the inspectors may ask for condition reports and maintenance records from appropriately accredited and approved contractors or inspectors - such as for electrical power supplies, clock, organ, boiler, lightning conductors, etc. Interestingly, how often is a report on the condition of the bells from professional bell hangers requested? How are any records from local ringers considered in this respect? In the increasingly litigious society in which we live, will there be an expectation that bell infrastructure will need to be checked and recorded more rigorously?
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    One of my worries is succession in relation to steeple keeping and keepers. I think we are heading towards difficult times. I think that one factor that might be contributing to the problem is that Baby Boomers were born into a much more of an industrial age where practical hands-on mechanical knowledge was much more widespread than now. Do we go for a of more formal training of ringers in steeple keeping or push the bulk of tasks to professionals?
  • Simon Linford
    152
    Do you think it will be the case that more and more towers will have maintenance agreements with bellhangers? Not necesssarily a bad thing.
  • Robin Shipp
    9
    I agree with Simon about the value of maintenance contracts, and with AJB about the lack of hands-on mechanical knowledge. But local steeple keeping expertise is still needed, if only to spot something going wrong between two regular inspection visits.
  • Phillip George
    23
    I entirely agree - succession is the challenge. Formal steeple keeping training would be helpful, but hands on, continuous inspection/gen maintenance is what is required to gain experience. This requires dedication/commitment too! I think professional maintenance agreements will be the answer but will probably only work for towers where the bells are regularly rung and the PCC has an understanding of what is in the tower! Other PCCs/unrung towers will probably not consider the cost to be worthwhile.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    There are several questions that emerge in this discussion -

    - Should ringers and local ringing societies offer more commitment and support in advising advising PCCs and church authorities about the value of their bell installations and the risks of poor or no maintenance? Ringers like to ring the bells owned by churches and in many cases the churches appreciate us ringing for church events. So perhaps more of a dialogue would help. How often do we communicate and host events for PCCs, church wardens, clergy, Diocesan buildings teams etc in our areas?

    - Not servicing equipment is a false economy! The costs will be much higher and consequences of not doing so possibly much more serious. Although self-evident to many of us, the report "The Value of Maintenance" by Historic England showed this from fuller analysis. https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/value-of-maintenance/

    - If there were to be a serious incident with major damage to a tower and bells and / or serious injury, then the church could be found to be liable if they had not taken appropriate precautions, including frequent, regular checks and maintenance. Extrapolating from this, it could then become a requirement for all bell related work to be done only by qualified and accredited professionals in the same way as, for example, is required for electrical installations.

    - As ringers, while we pursue our activity and hobby, should we consider whether the equipment and facilities are in good condition? Do we look out and listen for things that may not be working as they should and consider whether they may need attention? Or is that also a skill that we are losing? (We used to have to be able to judge what was going wrong with a car that we were driving when it made a certain squeak or knocking noise - now it is diagnosed by plugging in the computer - or not diagnosed as the case may be, but that is another story!)

    - ... and finally, what would be the views and capacity of bell hangers to take on maintenance contracts for all the bell installations?
  • Stella Bianco
    7
    One hears of churches where no annual meeting of the ringers is held, no belfry maintenance records, attendance records, h&s tower risk assessments, safeguarding checks are kept. Whilst CCCBR guidance is advisory, perhaps a sample agenda for AGMs could be compiled by the Stewardship & Management Work Group?
  • Phillip George
    23
    This requires a real joint effort between parish church and ringers. The ringers need guidance from the PCC and the ringers must educate PCCs about life in the tower. I have a feeling that in many churches there is little or no communication with ringers on the subjects you list.
    The CCCBR is an advisory/guidance body for bells and ringing. The church is the governing body for ringers. The ringers pick and choose who they consult. There is a significant disconnect and this might be why towers are not being managed as they should be.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    Stella - yes, i'll get our WG to prepare a sample Tower AGM notice, and work with the Volunteer & Leadership Groups as well. As an aside, we are currently preparing a completely new set of advice on Running Towers - a large project, but look out for it being made available.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    I am not sure that many vicars/PCCs realise the tower captain or ringing master is actually appointed by them.
    Alison this is also something the Guild of Clerical Ringers can put in their forthcoming publication for clergy.
  • John Harrison
    92
    that may be the legal position, but the custom of the ringers electing their leader (subject to the approval of the PCC) seems likely to produce more effective results.
  • Phillip George
    23
    I don't know how long the "custom" is of the PCC approving the appointment of the TC. In my many years of ringing I've only known the ringers to elected their TC - with no reference to the PCC. Appointment by the PCC is a recent thing brought about through safeguarding, but it is still the ringers who elect, and the PCC approve. When I first asked my PCC to ratify election of our TC they were not aware that it was their responsibility.
  • John Harrison
    92
    I would say ratification was by default. In practice there would need to be an extreme problem for a willing volunteer leader with the confidence of the band not yo be accepted.
    I'm not sure appointment is necessarily recent either. I think there always were places where the TC wasn't elected but offered the job by either PCC or the incumbent. I don't have data to prove that, it's just a hunch about 'the bad old days'.
  • Stella Bianco
    7
    I know one tower where the PCC insist on the TC being a member of the congregation, so it is difficult to replace him/her. I suppose there are ways around this by having a Ringing Master and sharing other roles. It is useful being a member of the PCC or having a 'voice' and feeedback through someone who is.
  • Nick Cronin
    5
    In my experience over the last 60 years I can only think of one tower where I regularly ring that has held an AGM and nominated a Tower Captain to the Vicar, and that is a recent development. ALL of the other towers have had a Tower Captain appointed by the Incumbent or the PCC.
    If we were unhappy with the Tower Captain, a quiet word, a few of us moving to ring in another tower and a willing volunteer was usually enough to persuade him to step down without any public show-downs at a tower AGM.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    Nick - I am pleased to see that you have never had to persuade a female Tower Captain to step down. Or am I rather less pleased that you have perhaps never had a female tower captain?
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    Stella - you asked for a "sample" meeting agenda so we have obliged; it is available on the CCCBR website here: https://cccbr.org.uk/resources/stewardship-and-management/ on the Tower Operation tab, second point down.
  • John Harrison
    92
    unfortunately that is one of the pages that don't show any content when viewed from my iPad.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    John - is that a problem with the website or the ipad? I have not heard anyone else make a similar comment. If the issue persists, it may be worth asking the webmaster.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    John - I have borrowed an ipad and we can certainly see all 3 tabs and view the document. It therefore seems to be a problem at your end rather than the CCCBR website. I don't use an ipad regularly so can't help further.
  • John Harrison
    92
    I know what the problem is. The CC website, used to work OK on my iPad but then it was changed so that some content is inaccessible without a 'recent' browser. I use the latest version that will run on my iPad, and I'm not going to throw away a perfectly working device to suit the whims of a picky website.
    When I reported the problem I had no reply so I assume it's not considered important.
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