Some churches offer Tower Tours where people can climb up the tower, see all the interesting things inside, and enjoy the (usually wonderful) view from the top. It tends to be larger churches who do this, and that's not only because they have the better towers: it's also because getting everything right for 'health & safety' and insurance purposes is a lot of work, and can cost a lot of money.
At St Michael's we used to offer Tower Tours but a few years ago it became clear that there was an element of danger and our insurers weren't happy; so we stopped regular tours. We're still keen, though, to do them - so we're working hard to make things safe in the tower and satisfy our insurers. The recent restoration of our oak staircase was part of this work, and though we're not finished yet we're hopeful that there isn't too much more to do before we can offer tours again.
Meanwhile, here is a virtual tour of the tower which will take you all the way to the top.
The view from outside
The tower is about 100 feet or 33 metres high - which is about 4 times the height of an average house. If we stand outside we can see various windows, lines and clock faces on the tower - and these give some idea what goes on inside.
Inside, the tower is not just an empty space: there are about 5 rooms inside, stacked on top of each other, and all these rooms have a function. We'll work through these various levels as we go on our tour.
1. The North Transept
The first room is on the ground floor of the church. At the moment this room is not used, but we have plans to turn it into a more useful space. Here there are two staircases on top of each other: a stone one and then the oak one which we've recently restored. (Click here to see more about the restoration project.)
The side of the oak staircase (the 'balustrade') used to be very wobbly, but it's now good and solid; the black handrail is also a recent addition which is very much appreciated, since there's almost no balustrade on the stone steps.
Here is a view from the top of the oak staircase, showing it really is a long way down. But there's a good way further to go up yet.
2. The Ringing Room
At this point we go through a stone arch into the Ringing Room. The Ringing Room is where the bell-ropes hang, and - obviously - it's where we go to ring the bells. This room is for people, not bells; the bells themselves are higher in the tower, and we'll get to them later.
Each bell-rope is made up of an ordinary rope and a furry part (the 'sally') which makes it easier to get hold of. When we're not pulling the bell-ropes we hang them up so that they don't get in anyone's way. We are fortunate at St Michael's to have 8 lovely bells which have a nice 'tone'. (Click here for full information about the bells)
Now it's time to move again. In a corner of the Ringing Room is a modern ladder up to the next room, the Clock Room. This ladder has a rail up the side, but it's still quite a challenging climb:
3 The Clock Room
The entrance into the Clock Room is through a hatch in the floor: here is the view back from the Clock Room once you get there. We've done some work to strengthen the rail round the hatch and to make the lifting mechanism a bit more friendly - but you can still see one of the bell ropes which pass through the room.
The Clock Room houses the clock mechanism, but the clock faces are actually higher up: obviously it's best to have them near the top of the tower so that they're visible across the village. The same is true of the bells, and this means from now on there are lots of wires and ropes passing up through each room into the next. That's another reason why this is treated as a 'specialist environment' and we ask people to be careful not to touch anything they don't recognise.
4. The Bell Chamber
5. The Clock Platform
6. The Tower Roof