This week we’ve mostly been up in the tower. As we mentioned last week, we’ve been getting things in shape for the YACR Open Day on 1 August. Buckle up, this is a long weeknote.

Let’s talk about the tower

Most people have never seen the inside of our tower. From the outside, it’s quite difficult to imagine what’s up there. Even when you’re inside, from the staircase it can be difficult to figure out exactly which floor you’re on. Fortunately, in one of our history booklets, there’s a lovely line drawing that can help people picture things.

A black and white cutaway drawing of a church tower. It shows a ground floor, four internal floors, and a roof. There is a spiral staircase linking all the floors. There is a bell on the fourth floor.
Line drawing of the interior of St Mary’s church tower by M Metcalfe.

The ground floor is pretty boring, full of cupboards with things like gas meters and electrical distribution panels. On the first floor, our organ. The second floor is what’s known as the “ringing room”, and this is one of the two places we’ve been busy. The third floor is known as the “clock room”, and holds the mechanism which drives our church clock. Up on the fourth floor is the belfry, holding our three bells. Finally, the roof.

Getting between all these floors involves a pretty narrow staircase and in some cases an unexpectedly large step. As you get higher these steps are also very uneven, and occasionally not lit as well as they could be, so climbing past the first couple of floors without a reason is generally discouraged.

Fortunately – or perhaps, unfortunately depending on your point of view – the tech team have been tasked with making sure people can see what’s up the tower without making the climb themselves. So, without further ado, here’s what we’ve been up to.

That wireless bridge

Although we actually moved it last week, we thought we’d get a picture of the wireless bridge which connects the church’s network to our Community Centre’s network, and then on to the internet. The new location is just as good a position in terms of connectivity, with some improvements to ease of access and a reduction in the risk of people unintentionally moving it.

Looking from inside towards two pieces of electrical equipment attached to iron bars outside a window. The left hand equipment is a white box. The right hand equipment is a round glass enclosure on top of a black tube. Both have cables coming from them.
The wireless bridge is the one on the left, already picking up some dirt to help it blend in.

An important consideration about all of our equipment in the tower is that it’s removable very easily, with no lasting changes made to the structure of the building. One thing which helps us do this is using something called Power over Ethernet, which lets us push both data and power down the same cable. Since the tower has very few power sockets, this is a real benefit when it comes to putting equipment somewhere far away from the mains.

A shelf full of goodies

In the ringing room, there’s a convenient shelf that now holds a range of equipment.

A wooden shelf containing a variety of electrical equipment and cables.
From left to right: our new wireless hotspot, the camera, a power block, some LED floodlights, a network switch, and another power block.

This shelf of equipment holds four things (plus power supplies for them), all of which support the YACR Open Day, and some of which will become permanent (or semi-permanent) fixtures.

To start with, lighting. One thing we had a request for from the YACR folks was better lighting in the space, to make it feel more comfortable for the ringers. Never one to do things by half measures, as a temporary fix we’ve installed a three-way LED floodlight which fills the entire room with even, white light.

Next, our networking equipment. Recently we’ve been rolling out massively improved network connectivity around the church building and our Community Centre to help support all manner of things. We’ve spliced a switch into what was formerly an uninterrupted run of cables to our wireless bridge, and from this we can connect both a camera (more on that later) and a new wireless access point. We’re using a TP-Link EAP110 for this, since it’s cheap and does everything we need, including playing nicely with our network controller. By adding a wireless access point in the ringing room we allow connectivity not just in the room, but also up the rest of the tower and even right the way to the roof. The switch is something we had kicking about in a cupboard, and we’re planning to replace it with something a bit more business-class in future to improve performance.

Finally, the camera! For the ringing room, we’ve added a TP-Link Tapo TC70. This is a relatively cheap and cheerful piece of kit, but it does everything we need. More specifically, in addition to being viewable through its own app, it also supports something called RTSP which lets us remotely connect to and view the stream from the camera. The camera hooks up to our network over wifi, and then we can easily pull the video from it to anywhere else we can get something connected.

Beware when bonging

As part of the journey to restoration, our bells were fitted with a system of remotely controlled hammers. This means they can do things like automatically chime the hours, as well as celebrate weddings and toll funerals even without a team of bell ringers.

Whilst this is a great tool – one we use every single week – it can lead to some nasty surprises (and cause quite a bit of damage) if it does things like try to chime the hour whilst people are ringing the bells. To help avoid this, we’ve double-checked and documented how to switch automatic systems off, as well as stuck a warning notice on the wall to remind ringers to check.

An instruction sign on a stone wall reading "disable automatic chimes before ringing". In the foreground, a red, white and blue stripped portion of a bell rope.
A handy reminder to any bell ringers to switch off our automatic chimes.

Up to the clock room…

From the ringing room, we head upstairs to the clock room. Unfortunately, the ringing room doesn’t feature any sockets. To solve this problem we dropped an extension cable down from the clock room above, which does have power, as a temporary fix. We’re planning some work to install a range of new cables, sockets and lighting in the tower, but for now we’re happy that the solution solves the problem.

The clock room is also the source of power for our equipment in the belfry, so it’s another mains extension which goes up to the floor above.

And up to the belfry

Before our bells were refurbished, we installed some loudspeakers in the belfry hooked up to a system that allowed us to play the sounds of bells at any time. Although we don’t use this system anymore, bits of it have been left in place just in case, and luckily for us one of these bits was the stand holding up the speakers.

This gave us a great place to put the camera in the belfry (a TP-Link Tapo C310), along with a floodlight to make sure things are perfectly visible even if it’s a bit grey outside. The C310 supports both wired and wireless connections, so to make sure this was reliable despite the distance from the wireless hotspot (and two floors in the way) we opted to use this wired connection.

A metal stand with a crossbar on top, holding four speaker horns, a small floodlight, a mains extension and a camera.
Leftover speakers from our old pre-recorded bells give us a place to put our new equipment.

A final bonus

It was a lovely day whilst we were doing things, so we decided to go one floor further and up to the roof. Here’s a bonus picture looking out from the top of the tower.

From the top of our church tower, looking South towards Temple Newsam House.