Since 1985 I have been ringing in Audlem, a village in south Cheshire, where I wrote the first Abel ringing simulator in the early 1990s. Audlem's six bells were cast by Abel Rudhall in 1736 - and the Abel simulator is named after him. The churchwardens' accounts for 1736 show that the cost of the new six was just over £110, including £69 paid to Rudhall's for recasting the old five, and £32 for building a new frame and hanging the bells.
The next we know of the bells is 150 years later: in 1891 the canons were removed, the bells were quarter turned and fitted to new wooden headstocks, and all the other fittings were replaced.
By the 1990s, the bells were getting harder to ring. Taylor's inspected them, provided new bearings and pulleys, and refurbished the clappers. Profits from sales of Abel paid the bill. Afterwards, the 'go' of the bells improved, but some odd struckness remained.
So, the bells and frame are over 285 years old; the headstocks and wheels are 130 years old; bearings, bushes and pulleys are 25 years old. Some bells have been persistently odd struck for many years; the 1736 frame gives a poor rope circle. And in the last few years the bells have again become difficult to ring well. We hoped another minor refurbishment might solve the problems, so we invited bell hangers to inspect the bells and report what was needed.
Bad news! They unanimously agreed that the entire installation is worn out. The frame is moving horizontally and vertically; wheels and headstocks are reaching end of life; bells should be turned again to spread wear from the clappers; clappers again need refurbishing or replacing; etc etc. In summary: a major restoration is needed, replacing almost all fittings, and strengthening or replacing the frame. The sound of the bells, though excellent for 1736, could also be improved with modern tuning techniques.
However, while a new frame and tuning the bells might be the best solution for ringing, there are only about three rings of Abel Rudhall bells that are in their original state of tuning and in their original frame. And Audlem bells are the earliest, cast just after Abel had taken over the foundry from his father and grandfather. The bell hangers and an independent structural engineer assure us that a significant improvement can be made to the frame. So we're choosing to strengthen the existing frame, and not to tune the bells. At least that reduces the cost!
Update: the restoration is happening between November 2023 and Easter 2024. Only four years after we started the project.Donations
The project will cost around £45,000. We welcome donations. If you have found Abel, Mabel or Mobel useful, would you be willing to support us? You can make a donation online by clicking Just Giving, or by going to www.justgiving.com and searching for "Audlem PCC".
If you prefer to send a cheque, please email email@example.com for the bank account details and Gift Aid form.