The Tod Squad were on hand to welcome the return of the beautifully refurbished bells to Todmorden’s Unitarian Church last week.
For two years prior to their removal last autumn the peal was silent ahead of their renovation, funded thanks to a bequest from the much-missed life-long bell ringer Geoffrey Cheetham.
Now, not only will the peal be heard again soon, but it can also be silenced to the outside world should longer peals take place. Geoffrey’s bequest of £46,985 to the Historic Chapels Trust, who have been renovating the Grade I listed building to fine condition, allowed the trust to renovate the bells and their housing. The deteriorating condition of the bells and their supporting frame meant they had become difficult to ring properly and if not restored could have become unsafe.
Last September a team of bell ringers and helpers - quickly nick-named The Tod Squad by helper Phil Hope - were on hand to see the bells safely removed, lowered and sent on their way to John Taylor and Co, Loughborough, for restoration. Taylor’s is one of only two tradition bell foundaries in the UK. By the end of Wednesday, February 26, bells one to six had been raised 50 feet up into the bell chamber, with the other two bells, seven and eight, being put in place on Thursday, said bell ringer Helen Rigby, one of the volunteer team. The expertise of the bellhanger Steve Westerman, from Taylor’s, would be needed to fix them correctly in position, said Helen, a job likely to take an additional week.
“In the week preceding the return of the bells, local helpers had been assisting the bellhanger to fix sound control boards over the inside of the louvres, so that any prolonged ringing in the future can be silenced to the outside world,” said Helen.
The project is being captured on film by one of the volunteers.
Eighteen-year-old Robert Hodgetts is making a film of the entire work, from start to finish, fitting it in with his TV and radio production studies at the University of Salford. The church tower dates back to 1869 and is one of only two Unitarian Churches in the country that have bells.