The Tower Handbook

6.2: Creature comforts

a: What sort of heater is best?

It depends on your situation. In a closed ringing room, fan heaters warm the air up quickly, but can make it very stuffy. Electric radiators give a slower heat. If the room is open to the church, it is hard to heat the air since it just gets lost. Radiant wall heaters may be more effective. Whatever heaters you have, make sure the ropes can't catch on them. Try to locate them so they warm those sitting out, or those ringing the little bells more than the tenor ringer who will generate more self heat than the rest. Also make sure that the electrical supply is up to the job; if in doubt check with a qualified electrician.

b: How can we improve ventilation?

In most towers, just open the window. But what if you have no windows to open? The people who designed our towers did not always have the needs of ringers at heart.

If you have one or more non-opening windows [49], perhaps they could be converted to include an opening light. This is easiest if the window is plain, but even a stained glass window may be amenable to conversion if it has a plain border, as many do, so that the main design would not be encroached by the additional thickness of a hinged frame [50]. Consult your PCC about the possibility of a modification if you think this may solve your problems.

One opening may not be enough on its own. Ideally you need a through flow of air which means somewhere for it to come in and somewhere for it to go out. A window on each side of the room will do this, or you may be able to open a door or window downstairs to let air to come up the stairs.

But what if you have no windows at all, or they can't be made to open? You could think about the possibility of ducting the air through the ceiling and up the tower. You would have to think about the effect on the balance of the bell sound, and you may find there is not enough space, but if you have no other options, it is worth a thought. It would either have to be a big duct or be fan assisted. If all else fails, stirring the air up with a big fan may make you feel a bit better, but make sure it could not be fouled by the ropes.

If you do consider any alterations, remember that you may need a faculty, see section 7.5b. But is your problem a lack of ventilation or is it over heating? Read on.

c: What can we do if the ringing chamber is too hot?

Most people think of church towers as cold, damp places. Many are, but some ringing rooms can get extremely hot and uncomfortable. The cause may be a combination of hot weather, sun coming through windows (a 'greenhouse effect') and the heat generated by the ringers [51].

Most of us, in moderate climates, think of opening the window (see above) as the answer to overheating. For towers in hotter climates (and even in Britain in hot or humid weather) this is not very effective. Some towers abroad already have air conditioning provided. Others in Britain are seriously considering it [52]. Air conditioning is now commonplace in commercial and leisure buildings in most parts of the world where there are rings of bells, so the technology is readily available.

If you do consider this solution, make sure you get the right design for your tower. The commercial designers should be able to tackle the problems of how to fit things in and where to get the power [53], but they probably don't understand much about ringing. Make sure they know how much heat you create! A ringing chamber may be about the size of a large bedroom, but it will have far more occupants and they will be much more active. Also make sure that you have adequate air circulation. Even with the inlet at ceiling level, it is easy for the cold air to accumulate near the floor. So you could find you have cold legs and hot heads.

Remember that you must seek a faculty for any major work, see section 7.5b.

d: How can we stop the sun dazzling us on summer evenings?

Put up a curtain. Many towers have a west facing window which catches the full sun during evensong ringing. This can make it uncomfortable for ringers facing the window, and does not help their concentration. No-one will mind a curtain in front of a plain window in an upstairs ringing room, but ground floor or balcony ringing rooms may have a beautiful stained glass window visible from the nave of the church. In such cases, the curtain should only be drawn when needed, and the fitting should be in keeping with the overall decor. If you contemplate putting in a curtain, make sure you have the necessary permissions.

e: Should we have a carpet and curtains?

Carpets and curtains have a significant effect on the acoustics of any room. If your ringing chamber is very resonant you could reduce this problem with a carpet and/or curtains. At the same time, you will be able to make your ringing room a more pleasant place to spend time.

A carpet also helps deaden the sound for anyone below, especially the sound caused by walking round on the floor. A new carpet is expensive and many towers manage to find one that is being thrown out but is still in quite good condition. You will probably need to cut it to shape though.

If you have a carpet, you may be tempted to throw away your rope mats (see section 6.4c) but only do this if the carpet is made of wool. Synthetic fibre carpets are not as kind to the ropes as wool and cause as much wear as a plain wooden floor.

f: What about refreshments

Many towers provide no refreshments. Some have a communal jar of sweets. Some in hot climates have chilled water machines. Some have coffee and biscuits or perhaps squash. Some ringing rooms are too small to find a corner for a small table for refreshments, and some bands might feel it wrong to eat in church. But if your ringing room is big enough, why not provide something? Most other groups do at their meetings (from the Mothers' Union to the PCC). A warm cup of coffee could be welcome in a chilly tower. Refreshments in the tower after practice could involve all of you, rather than some going over the road to the pub while the rest just go home. Using a tray should contain any spills, and you will need to have some rota or other arrangement for who brings supplies.


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