Glasscraft LTD has a wide variety of customer but Selby Abbey is our first Abbey and they wanted a focal point to complete the restoration of their bell tower. I was invited to the tower to see the finished piece and to meet with the gentlemen who made it all possible, John Wright and Roger Riley 2 out of the 21 bell ringers currently at the Abbey.
The team has been involved in renovating the bell tower that begun in 1994 and included sandblasting the internal walls new carpets increase in the number of bells from 10 to 12
In the 1990s, to celebrate the birth of the new century, 50% grants by the National Lottery were being offered for ‘Ringing in the Millennium’ projects. The Selby ringers decided that they would like two additional trebles plus a flat 6th. The latter to give a lighter octave, to compliment the existing heavier one. John Taylor’s were contacted and they told us that their archives showed that the bell frame which they provided in 1909 had been designed to accommodate additional bells, if the occasion ever arose. Permission to augment the bells was sought and given. Fund raising and donations realized the £20,000.00 half cost, which was required to qualify for the grant. The two trebles were cast in 1997 and the flat 6th in 1999. The installation was completed later in 1999 and the bells were rung as a ‘twelve’ to celebrate the new Millennium on 1st January 2000.
Finishing by uncovering of the entrance wall, which opened up a space and led to the team’s requirement for a focal piece of glass. For that they had a fantastic piece designed by them sourced by Selby Glass and made by Glasscraft.
Roger has been with the Abbey as a volunteer bell ringer since 1994 and John 1982. Both gents gave me a tour of the spectacular Abbey as well as a brief history of the creation of the Abbey.
About a thousand years ago Benedick was coming up the river Ouse, and he was looking for somewhere to build an Abbey and he came across 3 swans on the banks of the Ouse and decided that was the place that Selby Abbey was to be built. He had previously had a vision of 3 swans landing on the river, so when he saw the swans he felt the significance. And from that the Abbey was born and of course the swan became a part of the Abbeys history and became its coat of arms.
So when it came to the bell ringers looking to create a focal piece for the bell tower there first inspiration came with the swans. When people think of the Abbey they think of the swans then they thought they needed something with more of an impact so a shield was the first suggestion. After a little discussion and deliberation a verger at the church suggested a bell, as it was going in a bell tower. The team then sourced an image of a bell that they could use and they came across the image of the bell with the bell wheel around it which was perfect.
And this is how the piece was born and I was lucky enough to see this piece and the tower in person.
The entrance to the bell tower is via a very tiny dark spiral stair case, but then as you get to the top the stairs almost open up to reveal the entrance to the bell tower, and the first thing you see is this spectacular piece of glass beaming the light through the tiny windows welcoming you to the tower.
Within the tower there are all the bell ropes hung waiting for the ringers to use them as well has numerous photographs of past and present bell ringers.
Roger and John commented on their piece
Roger Riley “we thought it would look good but I didn’t think it would be quite as good as it does”
John Wright “my first reaction was WOW when I went to collect it, I can only describe it as perfect”
Glasscraft was pleased to team with Selby Glass to create a wonderful piece of art that will remain the focal point of the bell tower for years to come. This piece from design to implementation took around 3 months.
Thank you to the bell ringers and the Abbey for their hospitality and anyone who hasn’t yet visited the Abbey I strongly advise you to it’s a wonderful place, and will be holding a bell ringers tournament in March which hopefully the team will place highly in.
With thanks to the Abbey and John and Roger for allowing us to visit the Abbey and the bell tower.
The guys are always looking for new bell ringers and if you feel you would like to volunteer please contact the admin office of the Abbey.