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News From The Bell Project

By the time you read this the bells will have fallen silent. Our last ringing session is for the morning service on Sunday 24 November. The following day the clock will be disconnected. We have a considerable amount of preparatory work to do over the next 2 weeks before the bells can be removed from the tower. We will open the holes in the floors in the tower to allow the bells to be lowered - we are sure that the floor boards will come out, but as they have not been moved for over 100 years it may prove a little more difficult than we have planned. We will also remove some of the fittings from the bells so that when the bell-hanger arrives on 9 December they will be ready to be lowered. It is intended that the bells will be out of the tower by Thursday 12 December and will be taken to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London for tuning. After that they will be moved to Dorset where the restoration work will be completed.

The bells will be lowered one at a time, by stages down the tower, the final stage is for them to be lowered from the ringing chamber into the middle of the church crossing, where the nave altar usually stands. The bells dangling in mid air in the middle of the church should be a spectacular sight.
While the bells are away, work will be completed on the bell-frame, the shutters in the bell chamber and the hand rail on the stairs.
We expect the bells to return and be re-installed by Easter so we should be ringing again in April.
In the meantime the bell ringers will continue to practice. Whittington Church have very kindly agreed to let us use their bells on Friday evenings. Whittington has 6 bells and they are considerably lighter than our own bells so this will present a new challenge for our band of learners.
Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Bell Ringers

A Further Update on the Bell Project

We now have the necessary funding and work has commenced.

We received the faculty from Lichfield Diocese giving us permission to carry out all the work that we had planned.

Our application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund was also successful and they have given us a grant of £40800, about 45% of the overall cost. With £5000 from the Shropshire Association of Church Bell Ringers, almost £15000 raised by our local fund raising, and a reduction in the bill of about £12000 if we provide the volunteer labour to remove the bells from the tower and re-install them at the end of the project, we have almost reached our target. The Friends of St Mary's have generously agreed to meet any shortfall, and we are pleased that we shall we asking them for no more than £15000.

We announced the Heritage Lottery grant to the press at a small reception on the top of the tower on 27 July and received coverage in all the local papers and on Radio Shropshire.

The electrical work in the tower is now completed. We have new lights and heaters in the ringing chamber and emergency lighting on the stairs. We have lights in the bell chamber and clock chamber (so we can now see the dirt that has been lurking in the darker corners for many years!) As a result we have had to do a little cleaning before letting visitors up the tower.

The main bell renovation work is due to start in December. The bells will be removed from the tower during the week starting 9 December. Some preparatory work will have to be done, so the bells (and the clock) will fall silent at the end of November. We hope that the bells will be re-installed by Easter. We have run 2 afternoons of tower tours and almost 200 visitors have learned about the tower, the clock and the bells and have had a chance to enjoy the magnificent view from the top. On both days we were blessed with fine weather and good visibility.

We are running another Tower Tours afternoon on 14 September. We intend to run tours again next year when the bells return and the weather is suitable - watch the magazine for dates.

Again we would like to thank you all for your continued support and interest in the bells.

Peter Leigh
on behalf of the Bell Ringers