Porth, St Paul

5 years 1 month ago - 5 years 1 month ago #178 by Andrew Giles
Porth, St Paul was created by Andrew Giles
I try and keep abreast of news and events in my beloved L&M, and given my past involvement, I'm always keen to hear about ringing progress, new incentives, restoration and rescue. Some will know I'm an avid fan of Facebook, as a way of communicating, sharing and getting involved in ringing related issues. (I have suggested to John V that there should be a FB group set up for this Association, as this forum system is rather dated.)

I have known of the chime at Porth for 40 years and over that time became aware of their significance. With a bit more time on my hands over the last few years I have endeavoured to do a little armchair research into their background but there was precious little information in the public domain. I did contact the website on at least two occassions but never had any reply. A random search about 10 months ago threw up an article about the church closing so I questioned this on here at that time, and asked about the bells fate. The scant response albeit welcome and well meaning said nothing really, and then the thread that Id started was "locked"......

The next thing I knew was that the AMC had decided against getting involved, and shortly after the Keltek video and pictures appeared showing their removal. I shared these images on FB, and shortly afterwards Dave Kelly set up his own Keltek FB page, hopefully realising positive results in the future.

I have just read the Newsletter with the article about Porth bells in which David Moore says "They were cast by Taylor’s in 1935 with the heaviest bell weighing 16 cwt. This is is recognised as being one of Taylor’s best periods and professional analysis of the tuning of these bells indicates that, if they had been a ringing peal, they would undoubtedly have been the best ring of 8 in the Llandaff diocese." My thoughts exactly.

Not for the first time the shroud of mystery and deja vu decends over the L&M.....Llanbradach, outstanding, Taylor 1911 left the area, and Merthyr, of major historical significance (read Bill Hibberts online report) were on their way to Northamptonshire before we stopped it. What a joy to see them in the Striking Competition recently!!!

So the AMC or whoever decided that keeping the scrapworthy Mountain Ash bells hanging about for ages, and the effort in reclaiming Llanarth is more worthwhile than saving a 1935 Taylors ring. I know there will be the justifications along the lines of theyre a chime etc, but the back 5 / 6 are ringing weights ( compare with Plympton St Maurice - video of what the back 6 at Porth would sound like
). With interest rates as they are and over £50k in the restoration fund, wouldnt it have made sense to try a bit harder. Surely there would be more value in them than pounds in the bank? If there had been an appeal for example who knows what might have been. When we put Merthyr in the paper (no online in 1986) one lady paid off the church debt in one go, which was the supposed reason for their attempted sale.

I have rambled on long enough and I know the great and the good will put me straight in tbeir justifications, but I just feel its wrong not to try and retain what is universally accepted as a magnificently crafted instrument.
Last edit: 5 years 1 month ago by Andrew Giles. Reason: Missed out a link

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5 years 1 month ago #179 by John Vesey
Replied by John Vesey on topic Porth, St Paul
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, on many fronts.

There is a Management Committee Meeting on 19th June 2015. It is my first as Chairman and first (save for 1 year when Master) for 16 years. I will seek clarification on the matters you raise and get back to you.

Telling the Webmaster what to do.......

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5 years 1 month ago #180 by Andrew Giles
Replied by Andrew Giles on topic Porth, St Paul
Many thanks John

My contribution will probably be seen as over sentimental, impractical, unjustifiable, too expensive, unaware of circumstances etc, but that still doesnt make the AMCs decision right. A bell restoration fund is there for a purpose, and securing a 1935 Taylor ring, in my opinion, fits that bill. They paid 5250 for the scrappable Mountain Ash 6 in 2006 wheres the justification for that. Also, they were quick enough to get the mishmash of L&J, Whitechapel and Rudhall 8 that is Llanarth out.....what was so special about them.

With ringing and ringers diminishing and ageing, a major project could be just what the Assn needs. Im not of aware of a ringing centre in the Llandaff Diocese. Look at the success of Birmingham and Worcester and the ripple effects they are having.

Im guessing that by now Porth will have been snapped up and good luck to whoever gets them. So what are you going to spend some of the 50k on AMC.....I can think of at least one place that is ripe for potential development

If im barking up the wrong tree then I know Im sure ill be told, but if someone doesnt bark then no one knows the proverbial cat needs rescuing.

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5 years 1 month ago #181 by Matthew Turner
Replied by Matthew Turner on topic Porth, St Paul
Hi Andrew,

I'm not sure I qualify as either great or good, nor am I an Association Officer, but I am a member of the AMC so I will put my tuppence-worth in to try to dispel any shroud of mystery and to answer your welcome questions. It would be great if more people took an interest in such matters! For the avoidance of any doubt, I would say that these are my own views and not those of the AMC.

Firstly, I absolutely agree with you that a Facebook site would be welcome. Not least because there is a better chance of me seeing this rather than on the off-chance that I come to the website looking for something else and see it! I suspect few of the other AMC members will have seen your posts.

Turning to Porth, I think its important to place this in the wider context. In South Wales, as everywhere, churches are beginning to close at a faster and faster rate. That means we, as an Assocation, will have to make difficult choices about which bells we rescue and which we don't. The fact that the Keltek Trust is in existence, which it wasn't when Llanbradach and Merthyr were under threat, also has to be taken in account given their superior resources and contacts for rehoming.

If I deal with each of the three towers you've mentioned in turn:

1. Mountain Ash. I believe this was the first set of bells to come up for rescue following our ill-fated experience with Peterstone Wentlooge. In hindsight, being a wonderful thing, I wonder if this somewhat clouded our judgement and we perhaps acted too hastily to acquire the bells. We might have stopped to ask ourselves if a Charles Carr chime of 6 with no ringing fittings might be the best set of bells to try to rehome. However, the decision was made in the right spirit and it was one with which I agreed at the time. The Association was able to buy the bells but sadly, despite numerous contacts, we've not yet been able to find a home for the bells. However, information presented to the AMC relatively recently suggested that the value of the bells, in scrap metal terms, had appreciated considerably and so, as an asset, the BRF has beneffited from having them. Efforts continue to re-home the bells.

2. Llanarth. The Assocation was made aware of the impending closure of the church by the ringing Vicar who was very keen for the bells to be made available for use elsewhere. The fact that we could rescue a good ring of bells, with frame and complete ringing fittings (dating from early 1980s) with comparative ease and at relatively little cost to the BRF meant this was a decision which could be easily justified. The bells are currently in secure storage and I believe that there have been positive discussions about a possible new home.

3. Porth. There was a long discussion at the AMC meeting about whether or not to intervene in this case. It was certainly not a decision that was taken lightly. From memory (so may be inaccurate!), the points considered by the AMC were that the bells were of superb quality, that they were not cast as a ring and might not be suitable for hanging as a ring of 8 and that the process of removing the bells from the tower would not be straightforward. Taking this into account along with the costs of removal, storage and finding a home or multiple homes for the bells it was felt that the Keltek Trust would be better placed to remove the bells and
find new homes for them. I have seen the video of Taylor's removing the bells and it certainly doesn't look easy. I have also seen on Facebook that the Keltek Trust have split the bells into two lots and that they are currently on offer to two churches.

As David Moore says in his recent newsletter article which you've read "Considerable effort was put into relocating Porth bells within Wales,including the possibility of their going to Bangor Cathedral, but eventually it became clear that no church was in a position to receive
them within a realistic timescale so they were offered to the Keltek Trust." There is no way that the Association could find homes as quickly as Keltek. Superbly crafted instrument or not, if we had acquired them they would have spent years, if not the rest of their days, sat in storage not being heard. See Mountain Ash above.

I know that £50K in the BRF sounds like a lot but I could empty that and spend the same amount again in a blink given a really good restoration or augmentation project. Its really not that much in the context of the costs of bell work. For example, it cost us in the region of £14K just to put Rumney on a ball bearing a few years ago. Removing Llanarth bells cost in the region of £2K. Removing Porth bells would have cost significantly more and was a decision we could not justify. Given our limited resources we will find ourselves having to make difficult decisions. What would happen if, for example, Ebbw Vale or Pentre were closed and bells needed to be removed?

If they had been a ring with associated ringers or ringing history as in the case of Llanbradach, Merthyr or Peterstone then I might have felt differently about it. However, I feel that in this case the AMC made the right decision and I look forward to ringing on the Porth bells in their new homes.

I understand that you might have differing views but I hope this helps to explain,from my perspective at least, why these decisions were taken. Redundant churches and bells is an emotive subject and we can only act in the best way we see fit given the resources (human and financial) available to us.

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5 years 4 weeks ago #182 by Andrew Giles
Replied by Andrew Giles on topic Porth, St Paul
Thanks for taking the time to provide your considered response Matthew. So,

Facebook group needed - tick

Actions re redundant rings justified - tick (current scrap value for good quality bell metal is £380 per cwt, so MA are probably in profit).

And for the future, publicity, recruitment and training and retention all feature prominently in current ringing debates. Any thoughts on a Big Drive, or Major Regeneration Scheme, culminating in a recognised Ringing Centre. A positive and productive use of dear TPE's legacy etc. perhaps. Even somewhere not too far from his home town........

Im rambling again, but seriously I hope my utterings on this forum accentuate the requirement for the use of current technology and social media to move things along. You might not agree with what i say but you have the opportunity in forums like this to develop trains of thought. Who knows what sort of phoenix might emerge from the embers of ringing in th 21st century. Right.... time for my medication......NURSE!!!.......(actually readers who know me will appreciate that in my previous analogies I used the term 'barking'. You could say it might be used with an entirely different meaning too)

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