Norton in Hales

Contributed by Jim Vallings


At St Chad's, Norton in Hales,Shropshire, a tune barrel was installed together with the clock by Thwaites and Reed of Croydon in 1868. It is about to be fully restored to proper working order. The principle repairs will be to the hammers and bearings and re-routing of the cable arrangements as well as installation of an electro-mechanical pull off device to enable full circle ringing on the 8 bells.

Getting the right advice for restoration has been a very lengthy process: experts in this field are few and far between. Of the 4 quotes we received, all made different recommendations, so trying to establish what was vital, what desirable and what was luxury was difficult. Fortunately I got an independent review from someone in the mechanical/fairground organ restoration business who put me in touch with a retired clockmaker/bellhanger..the ideal combination. As a result of his report we were able to get the final spec. agreed.
We have been promised a £5000 grant from Shropshire Historic Churches Trust which will help fund the work and to add night silencing, so as to avoid complaints when the whole system is up and running again.

The fund raising commenced in July 2019 and to date nearly £15000 has been raised towards the total estimated cost of £25000. This includes a grant from ChurchCare, who recognised the rarity of this installation and its local significance.Generous giving fom the Community has enabled the work to be commissioned. The faculty for the work has been approved after lengthy consultations with the Diocesan Clock and Bell advisers. This installation has been until recently in full working order: however wear and tear and regular problems with bell-wheels fouling by the carillon hammers has meant that full-circle ringing by our regular band was not able to safely continue until the carillon problems have been fixed: our PCC decided that as it wished to continue full circle ringing , the carillon should be taken out of service pro tem. Carillons are rare in British rural churches, and this one is one of only 8 ever manufactured to to this pattern and one of only 4 still working   St. Chads at Norton-in-Hales is said to be the smallest tower in Shropshire to house 8 bells, let alone a carillon. The oldest bell in the tower is from around 1610 and the carillon and remainder of the bells were installed in 1868.

This video was shot in the tower clock room, just under the belfry. The room is tiny, about 10 feet square, and houses both the clock mechanism and carillon. The actuating wires to the carillon hammers can just be seen, along with the bell ropes running in the wooden guides from the ringing chamber below.

The Victorian engineering of the carillon can be seen clonking away as the bells chime and the modern electric motors that drive the carillon whir away in the background. Originally the the carillon was powered by weights. The carillon plays one of three tunes, at three, six, nine and twelve o’ clock, morning and evening, every day, following the Westminster Chime for the quarters and hours. The tunes are “Home Sweet Home”, “There’s Nae Luck About The House” and “We Love The Place O’ God”. Feel free to hazard a guess at the tune in this performance. After restoration it might be a bit easier!