Romsey Library Bell
Geoff Morris 2006
Thanks to Paul Gardner for providing the text about Nesfield
4. The library – a valued building in Romsey
The library is a Grade 2 listed building designed by an important architect: William Eden Nesfield. It was built 1872 as the Boys National School and Master's House in 1872 and was still used as a school until 1957. It became the public library in 1968. In 2005, the Society fixed a blue plaque on the porch remembering the architect and the history of the building.
The building has not been well cared for over the last 130 years. The charming sketch below was made in 1883 when the building was clearly valued as the Abbey also featured on the same sheet. It can be seen that a tall ornate chimney-stack abutted the bell turret. The bell was removed during the Second World War and the chimney-stack is believed to have been taken down at about the same time, possibly because it had become unsound. The building is now the property of HCC who plan to complete an extension and refurbishment programme in June 2006. A number of smaller jobs have been carried out to improve its appearance. These include repairing the brickwork to the side of the turret where the chimney-stack was carelessly removed and tidying up the chimney pots on the splendid ornate chimneys.
5. The library architect William Eden Nesfield and his association with Romsey (text provided by Paul Gardner)
The literature on Nesfield is regrettably thin, partly because he was himself so averse to publicity and partly because it is only during the past twenty-five years or so that any serious assessment of late Victorian architecture has got under way. Nonetheless, the leading authority on the subject, Professor Mark Girouard, leaves no doubt that for him Nesfield is a key figure in the development of the Queen Anne Revival and so of the great flowering associated with the Arts & Crafts architectural school in general. He suggests that many of the innovations attributed to Norman Shaw owe their inspiration to Nesfield and unhesitatingly uses the term 'masterpiece' when assessing the achievement of Kinmel Park.
Through his father, though helped by his own reputation, Nesfield secured the active patronage of William Cowper-Temple, the inheritor of Broadlands. If Nesfield was an artist of importance, it follows that what survives of his work should be treated with the utmost care and respect, especially since much of his slender output has already been irretrievably lost. Romsey is fortunate in possessing two lodges (one of some significance), his school (our present Town Library) and, as I believe, a row of cottages at Lee.
Clive Aslet, in a series of authoritative articles (Country Life, March-July 1978) accords Nesfield the status of 'one of the most brilliant architects of his generation.' While discussing Nesfield's revival of the Queen Anne Style, he made this interesting parenthetical reference to Romsey:
“Another building (he had been describing the qualities of Kinmel) charming but not so spectacular, may have had an effect on the style's development. One of the early successes of the style was its domination of the London School Board. The Board was established as a result of the 1870 Education Act and its first school was designed in 1872. The year before, Nesfield designed a school at Romsey, in Hampshire. The significance of this is that the style is Queen Anne and the patron was William Cowper-Temple, who added a famous amendment to the Education Act, freeing the Board Schools of Anglican religious instruction. It is therefore possible that Nesfield's influence may have been transmitted, through Cowper-Temple, to the Board Schools of London.”
6. The supplier and bell-hanger; Taylors Eayre and Smith
Taylors is remarkable in that it can trace its ancestry back to the 14th century when Johannes de Stafford is recorded as casting bells in 1338. The Taylor family became owners of the company in 1784.
Making bells was something of a hit and miss affair until 1896 when, after 20 years' work, the company scored a first in the UK by discovering the principle of true-harmonic tuning, a process they perfected in 1907. In practise this meant that when a bell had been cast, their engineers knew precisely which parts of the bell to skim off in order to make the bell sound pleasant. The tuning is carried out at their works using a vertical lathe in which the bell is fixed so that it rotates bottom-up and a carefully guided tool can cut away annular rings usually from the inside of the casting so that harmonics produced by the bell resonate concordantly. In earlier times, tuning was carried out in situ by a bell tuner armed with a hammer and chisel. This was a perilous and noisy approach with a rather uncertain outcome.
Taylors supplied the bell for the library but it was not made by them. It was made by Gillett & Co (later Gillett and Johnston) in Croydon - a foundry which was in fierce competition with Taylors until it finally closed in 1957. The bell was selected because it met three criteria: the right size (15 inches diameter), the right period (cast in 1896 within 20 years or so of when the library was built) and because it sounded well.
It was bell-hangers Eayre and Smith who had recommended the bell at Taylors but by the time the bell was hung, they had merged with John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd to form the present company, Taylors Eayre and Smith Ltd which is based in Loughborough, Leicestershire.
7. CSG Ltd who funded most of the work
The major donor to this project, Cleansing Service Group (CSG) Ltd has an interesting history. It started its journey way back in 1934 as Hampshire Cleansing Service with the purchase of a second-hand cesspit tanker from Wokingham Rural Council for the princely sum of £5.00. With this, the company set itself up in ‘night soil’ collection business. Coincidentally, at about this time, Romsey was furiously resisting the imposition of a new-fangled sewerage system which it felt it could manage without and certainly did not want to pay for.
Today, CSG is the largest privately owned waste management company in the country and operates from locations throughout the UK with a fleet of over 200 of the latest design commercial vehicles. This allows a large range of activities ranging from the original domestic sewage service through to the collection, treatment and disposal of large volumes of oily water and hazardous industrial waste.
CSG have their own disposal facilities. These range from landfill sites (CSG operates the landfill site at Redlynch) and treatment plants to a custom-built special waste facility designed to treat most waste streams. The company is committed to improving the environment through a number of recycling initiatives including the recycling of industrial waste.
Referring to the installation of the new bell at Romsey library, CSG’s Dr Ian Carnell says: “This project is yet another example of the way the landfill industry can help local community projects”.
8. The old headstock
|The headstock supporting the bell was made of wood of section 14cm x 6cm with projecting iron gudgeon pins at either end. Annular metal rings around the circular end sections at the ends of the beam prevented the wood splitting around the pins. The overall width of the wooden headstock was 63cm.
The counter-weight was mounted on an iron arm that passed through the headstock. The weight was made of lead about 10cm in diameter. Another arm projecting from the beam carried the rope which when pulled, caused the bell and headstock to rotate.
The headstock will be offered to local museums.