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Wringing with sweat should be less of a problem in Inverness Cathedral bell tower

By Neil MacPhail

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The belfry of Inverness Cathedral.
The belfry of Inverness Cathedral.

SWEATING bell ringers will soon be more comfortable and safer from Covid when practising their art at Inverness Cathedral.

Highland Council planners have given permission for two windows in the cathedral’s bell room to be replaced so they can be opened to give better ventilation as advised among Covid precautions.

The new windows will also look better aesthetically than the non-original plate glass currently fitted.

The 152-year-old building has the most northerly tower in the world with bells hung for change ringing.

A report from Maclean Architecture and Conservation, Inverness said ringing the bells can require up to 12 adults to carry out strenuous activity in a confined space for an extended period, and the room is currently unventilated.

Of the three windows currently in the bell room only one is original, with the other two having been replaced at some point with modern glazing.

The report adds: “The proposals will remove the non-original glazing and replace it with new opening windows.

“The replacement of the non-original elements will have a positive architectural outcome. The replacement windows will return the openings to the original diamond leaded pattern.

“An important consideration is the cultural significance of the bell tower. The act of ringing the bells both in terms of the sound of the bells in the town and also, the maintaining and passing on the skill of bell ringing is an important cultural activity. The ventilation of the ringing room will allow this function to continue and should be supported.”

Head bell ringer Mike Neale said: “For many years the bell ringers have suffered stuffy conditions through lack of ventilation. We have not been able to attempt to ring a full peal during the summer months because a full peal is more than three hours of continuous ringing. Even on a practice night with 12 or more persons in the ringing room it can get very hot and stuffy.”

Due to Covid and lack of ventilation a select band ring the bells for the Sunday morning service and Thursday night practice is suspended.

Mr Neale added: “The Covid situation has highlighted our problem and given the necessary force to get the cathedral authorities to take action. As soon as we have better ventilation we will resume full service and practice ringing.”

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