One of the important safety considerations in the bell-chamber is the condition of the floor. Having climbed under a great number of bells over the years and seen a range of floors (and flaws), there is a story or two to be told.
Tower C: A seventeenth century wooden tower within stone castle walls, the bell frame is not in a room of it's own. The floor under each bell is more a selection of beams and planks for mounting chiming hammers and access thereto. As the different bells require a different amount of space the depth of each pit is not the same. Lots of levers, wires and spaces to trip over and into - maybe down to the clock chamber below. Beams and planks of uncertain age and condition; lighting abominable. Hairy.
Tower S: A single bell at the top of tower in this former church - now a town hall. Visited to see the bell there. Hung for ringing in late 19th century. Fortunately, the two floor boards (and rubbish) which gave way under the writer's feet leaving a great void to the floor below but luckily did not cause him to fall. Floor boards under bells are sometimes mounted from underneath; NOT a good idea when the next visitor is likely to be fifty to a hundred years later!
Towers W and F: at these two lovely red-brick towers intimately known to the writer, proper joists and tongued and grooved floor-boards are fitted under the bell-frame - leaving about a foot of clearance. One advantage of this is that (wearing overalls) the steeple keeper can move easily from pit to pit by lying flat on the floor. In tower F a carpet is also laid - mainly for sound reduction in the ringing room below, but also because large mirrors are sometimes laid on the floor, with lights to illuminate the inside of the bells, on open days. In tower W - not being nailed down, the boards can in fact be easily removed for any serious maintenance - like painting the frame.
Tower O: lots of work here some years ago; kneeling on the floor as one does to drill holes and fit new pulley boxes - best way to find protruding nails. A particularly nasty headless nail was discovered by right knee-cap. Ouch.
So, what is a floor? What do we do with them? Is it our responsibility? A floor is a level surface on which things or people may be safely placed or moved. I suggest the same applies to the floor underneath bell-frames - and as we are usually the only people to visit them. it is up to us to do something about it if something is not right. Notifying others (e.g. the PCC) of course if appropriate.
So, get down on your hands and knees, explore, and pay due respect to the relative smoothness, flatness and firmness of your bell-chamber floor - and consider the safety and well-being of any size of ringer you can imagine being appointed a future Steeple Keeper!
DWS - 6/2014
Document last modified 3-July-2014