Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Meeting with English Heritage

Note of a meeting held at 23 Savile Row, London W1 on Wednesday 22 March 2000

English Heritage: Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger, David Heath

C.C.C.B.R.: John Anderson, Michael Henshaw, Adrian Dempster, Chris Rogers

1. The Joint Churches Grant Scheme - David Heath reported that 712 applications had been received by the 30 September deadline, of which only one included work on bells. This was from Lutterworth, where unsafe pinnacles had put a stop to ringing. This application had been submitted under Stream 1 (urgent high-level structural repairs), under which work to bells would not be eligible.

2. EH had not yet responded to the letter of 27 December 1999 from Martin Fellows about the Grant Scheme. Richard Halsey agreed that they should do so and asked Graham Pledger to draft a reply for him to send.

3. Heritage Strategy Review - Richard Halsey explained that, following a Parliamentary Select Committee recommendation, EH had been asked to conduct a Heritage Strategy Review for submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by September. This was timely, given the renewal of the licence to operate the National Lottery from 2001 and the need to review the operation of the Joint Heritage Lottery Fund/English Heritage Church Grant Scheme after the current Scheme ends in March 2002. He proposed to consult the CCCBR on the Review, which would take a high-level, non-technical approach. John Anderson thanked him for this - the opportunity to make an input would be welcome and could be useful from a public relations point of view.

4. National Bells Register - John Anderson outlined the current position. A working party consisting of Jane Wilkinson, John Baldwin and Chris Pickford had drawn up an initial list of headings for the Register, concentrating on details of bells (diameter, weight, note, founder, etc.). Information on bell frames would not be included at this stage. A paper was being prepared on the way forward, a copy of which would be sent to EH. Some information for the Register was readily available from Taylors, Whitechapel and elsewhere, but any that EH could supply would be appreciated. In response, Graham Pledger said that he had information on between 300 and 400 cases, which could be copied from his files, provided the CCCBR could obtain blanket permission from the bellfounders/bellhangers who wrote most of the reports on file.

5. In answer to questions, John Anderson said that the Register would be published on the Internet and that at this stage the costs involved would be minimal. Costs would be incurred if information on frames were to be included.

6. The CCC's List of Historic Bell Frames - Graham Pledger said that he had spoken to John Eisel, who had indicated that the work would take some time. As a start, members of the CCC's Clocks and Bells Sub-Committee would be seeking to update their own records of bell frames.

7. The Essex bell frame survey - Graham Pledger said that a report of the survey, summarising the work done, had finally been written. The survey, which began in 1992 and covered 523 towers, was never completed but sufficient work was deemed to have been done to allow valuable conclusions to be drawn. Copies of the report would be distributed as soon as possible.

8. Cases of difficulty

(a) Whitwell, Derbyshire - Adrian Dempster said that he proposed to follow up this case by speaking to the local incumbent.

(b) Cranfield, Bedfordshire - Graham Pledger had received most of the specification, but was waiting for details of the frame layout from Taylors.

(c) Stourbridge - Adrian Dempster reported that he had met Don Ascough, the engineer employed at Stourbridge, who had expressed concerns about inserting steelwork into masonry towers. Mr Ascough would not say where problems had occurred but had asserted that there was a disaster waiting to happen. Although some members of the Towers and Belfries Committee felt that action should be taken to disprove his theories, Adrian Dempster was of the view that the burden of proof should lie with him. Richard Halsey agreed with the latter view.

(d) Middleton-in-Teesdale - Graham Pledger said that he understood that the local people did not want a ring of bells and were content to keep a chime. If that were so, the existing frame, which was of no great value, could remain. If the bells were to be hung for full-circle ringing, a new frame would be needed.

(e) Swaffham Prior - Graham Pledger had looked into the matters raised in a letter to The Ringing World from Peggy Stanier and would comment on them when dealing with the letter from Martin Fellows.

9. Installation of ringers' galleries - A letter from Gordon Halls had been circulated and Graham Pledger passed round a note on the matter. On the question of means of support for the gallery, Richard Halsey said that EH were basically against cutting into mediaeval tower walls to anchor supporting steelwork but they accepted that there was sometimes no alternative. Where possible, the gallery should be supported independently on stilts and in Graham Pledger's view the gallery at Hathersage, mentioned by Gordon Halls, was an excellent example of this. On the question of access, Adrian Dempster agreed with Gordon Halls' view that the best option was to break through from an existing spiral staircase, if one existed. The alternative, a staircase from the ground and entry into the gallery through a trap-door, often gave rise to a safety hazard. Graham Pledger agreed that EH should take account of such safety aspects when commenting on proposals for galleries. Adrian Dempster agreed to reply to Gordon Halls on these issues.

10. St Peter's, Barton-on-Humber - Discussion took place on a letter from Barry Peachey, which had been circulated. The church belonged to EH and the bells had recently been restored, but a problem had occurred regarding access for ringing. Michael Henshaw had spoken to the Lincoln Guild Secretary and to local people and it appeared that there was some misunderstanding between the latter and the local EH representative. It was agreed that Michael Henshaw should call a meeting between the Tower Captain and the EH representative with a view to reaching an agreed solution.

11. Corrosion risks arising from insertion of new steelwork into tower walls - Graham Pledger passed round a discussion paper and outlined its main points. Adrian Dempster replied to the effect that, if steelwork were built into good quality concrete, there should be no risk of corrosion. Problems might occur with poor quality concrete. Graham Pledger added that, in addition to good quality concrete, EH normally specified that the steelwork should be hot-dip galvanised after fabrication.

12. Next meeting - It was agreed that the next meeting should take place on Wednesday 13 September 2000.

The Ringing World, July 28, 2000, page 742