The installation was a Community Project, masterminded by Keith Gatman, Head of Design and Technology at Warlingham School at that time. The project involved many of the pupils from the school, together with local bell ringers, members of St. Mary’s congregation, soldiers from the Barracks, (Caterham was then a garrison town), and many other volunteers.
Between January and Easter 1993 many weekends were spent at Warlingham School cleaning up the numerous parts of the bell frame which had been taken there. Meanwhile the six bells and headstocks from Hamer had been transported to Whitechapel for tuning and essential restoration.
During the Easter holidays 1993, work started on the construction of the new frame in one of the school workshops. All the plates had to be cut and drilled, and many parts welded and bolted together. New wheels had to be made for the two new bells.
Much work was also required to repair the existing six wheels. The pulley blocks, stays and sliders were also constructed in the school workshops. The existing tubular bells (which date back to 1891) were also removed for renovation.
Much of the work continued every weekend with volunteers being taught how to do many of the jobs that were needed. Some of the pupils specialised in different aspects of the bell project to provide a major part of their GCSE course work.
The big day arrived to prepare the holes for the end of the main steel girders – a memorable Saturday, when volunteers mixed hundreds of buckets of concrete which were then pulleyed up from the porch of St Mary’s, through the trap doors to the top of the tower to form the bearing pads.
The work went on until the early hours of Sunday morning. I can still remember the shouts of joy when chocolate biscuits and flasks were hoisted instead of concrete!
Back at Warlingham School, the two- tier frame weighing 5 tonnes and now too large for the workshop, together with the eight bells, was erected in the school grounds. At a special assembly the Bishop of Croydon came to bless the frame and the bells. The following weekend it all had to be dismantled and transported to St Mary’s in readiness for the installation.
Considerable work had to be undertaken in the tower – redecorating the ringing room, treating all the floors for insect infestation, installing a new sound deadening floor, a new ceiling in the ringing room and a walkway and viewing platform at the top of the tower.
Eventually all the many parts of the frame had been hoisted up and put together like a giant meccano and by the Christmas holidays it was ready for its final coat of paint followed by the major job of lifting the bells into position.
In February 1994, arrangements were made for the inspection of the whole project by Alan Hughes from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. After some minor changes the bells were ‘tried out’ one evening with many people present who had been so closely involved.