HISTORY

Wortley’s Original Bell

The tower when originally built had one bell placed in it. It was cast by W & T Houlden in 1751 and had a diameter of 24 inches. It had the inscription: T Smith I Backhous, Chap Wardens, Nosce Teipsum 1751. This information is recorded in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Volume 17. It is not known what happened to this bell.

The Existing Ring of Eight

In 1893 a full peal of 8 full-circle change ringing bells cast by John Warner & Sons bell founders of London were installed in the tower. They were a gift from Mary Caroline, the Marchioness of Drogheda who was the sister of the first Earl of Wharncliffe; they were given in memory of her husband Henry. The inscription cast on the Tenor bell is “To the praise and glory of God and for the continual joy and comfort of the people of Wortley for the use of the Church of S Leonard, these bells being the gift of Mary Caroline, Marchioness of Drogheda, daughter of John Second Lord Wharncliffe, in perpetual memory of her beloved husband Henry, Third Marquis of Drogheda, who died June XXIX, MDCCCXCII, were dedicated by the most Rev W D MacLagan, DD, Lord Archbishop of York, July XXXI, M.D.CCCXCIII”.

For the best part of 80 years the bells continued to provide faultless service but by the late 1980’s the plain bearings were showing signs of wear particularly on the 7th and Tenor and for a time these two bells were silenced leaving only the front 6 able to be rung. The seventh and Tenor were subsequently re-hung on ball bearings and fitted with new clappers allowing all eight to be rung again. The condition of bells 1 to 6 and all the pulleys and clappers continued to deteriorate. By 2013 they were causing serious concerns and the PCC took action to rectify the problems.

Fund raising began and local people, businesses and others from further afield donated money to match fund several grant applications. The main grant funder was Viridor Credits, the Landfill Community Fund which provided half of the total costs of over £50,000.

In 2016 all the bells were overhauled and tuned by John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry. This has set them up in good ringing order for the foreseeable future. The 8 bells had their Doncaster Canons removed and new metal headstocks fitted with ball bearings and new clappers. New sliders and pulleys have been fitted and the wheels reconditioned. They are all mounted in the original massive oak bell frame which was found to be in excellent condition.

The ringing room was decorated, and new carpet tiles fitted. The new team of ringers established in 2013 recruited more learners and the team numbers increased. Ringing regularly takes place now.

The Clock

Directly below the bell chamber is the clock room which houses a 3 train turret clock built by W. Potts of Leeds in 1893. The clock drives dials on the north and south sides of the tower. The 3 trains (gears) strike the hours, chime the quarter hours and drive the hands around the dials. The strike sequence is Westminster Chimes (the same as Big Ben). Its timekeeping is governed by a double three-legged gravity escapement.

This is a fine piece of Victorian engineering, well worth seeing. Potts of Leeds were a major clock manufacturer and there are thousands of Potts clocks still in existence in public buildings in the UK and worldwide.

In the 1970’s the going train (the time-keeping section) was converted to electric winding. Prior to this someone had to wind it up every week. Manually winding involved placing a large crank handle on the end of a cable drum and winding a big heavy weight from the ground floor of the tower up to the clock room. As it is a 3 train clock there were 3 cable drums and 3 weights. The clockwork mechanism still drives the hands round the dial.

The chiming mechanism still co-ordinates the chimes and strikes the hours but 2 electric motors provide the power rather than 2 weights and gravity. Occasional adjustment is needed to keep the clock accurate as it gains slightly (we stop it and start it again) and a service once a year by a professional clock maintenance company.

The Roof of the Tower

We will allow visitors to visit the tower roof (weather permitting) but access is strictly by prior arrangement with the PCC or Tower Captain. We do not allow roof visits on tower tour days. There are many ladders to climb and a head for heights is needed. Our flagpole is on the roof and we fly the flag of St George at Easter, St George’s Day, Whitsuntide, Christmas and at half-mast on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.

Tree Trunk Ladders

The tower has 3 floors (rooms) all accessed by ladders. The first 2 ladders which are to the ringing room and clock room are historic tree trunk ladders. Made from the split trunk of a tree to form the side rails and the branches cut to make the rungs. They are most likely the same age as the tower which was built in 1750.

To contact the bell ringing team please use the following:

Email:wortleytower@gmail.com
Phone: 07851727306

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