Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Thursday, 9th October 2003

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger.

CCCBR - Michael Henshaw, Derek Sibson, Chris Povey, Ian Oram.

Apologies had been received from David Heath.

1. Matters Arising from previous meeting notes:

(a) Conservation Statement: the final version of "Tower Changes" had been agreed by all parties; al] that remained was for CCCBR to arrange for printing.

(b) Incomplete specifications: Graham Pledger's reply had prompted Martin Fellows to write again (in The Ringing World issue of 18th April) but it was agreed that the matter did not need to be pursued further.

(c) Roadshow: on behalf of CCCBR Michael Henshaw thanked Richard Halsey and Graham Pledger for their contribution to the event; the organisers had been disappointed with the attendance. Richard Halsey noted that they were kept busier than expected; and it was gratifying that several visitors acknowledged being members of English Heritage (EH).

Robert Lewis had asked Graham Pledger to provide an article on the survey recording techniques demonstrated at the Roadshow. Those concerned Attleborough, Norfolk and similar work was in hand for St Osyth, Essex; the standard of recording was being developed by EH - its Research and Standards Division was examining the costs of producing such surveys.

2. Repair Grants for Places of Worship and Your Heritage

Richard Halsey reported that the Repair Grants Scheme would be reviewed in January for the next three-year cycle.

The Your Heritage Scheme was known to have approved substantial grants to four parishes recently. The Scheme had the merit of progressing applications quickly. At a recent meeting with the Council for the Care of Churches (CCC) the criteria for the Scheme were discussed; CCCBR members were working on these, to try to make them clearer for ringers and thus avoid abortive applications.

Richard Halsey drew attention to grants of under £5,000 available from the Countryside Commission, aimed primarily at the local environment, with the emphasis on community events. He identified several recent grants of interest: repairs to churchyard walls, repainting peal boards, bells open days. Richard Halsey was thanked for this information.

3. Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

Richard Halsey spoke of a discussion paper from the EU recommending that there should be no reduction in VAT for churches, even suggesting the scrapping of the zero-rate; one rate of VAT across the whole of Europe was favoured, it then being up to individual governments how VAT might be reimbursed by tax incentives etc. A decision was expected before the end of the year; our Government was known to be fighting hard on this and other VAT issues. The Churches Main Committee was urging people to write to their MP; if the EU has its way, it was likely that there would be more pressure to continue the Grant Scheme.

4. Radio Aerials in Churches

Michael Henshaw reported on a further meeting on 8th July between CCCBR and CCC: various actions had arisen from the March meeting and this was an opportunity to follow these up. CCCBR was particularly pleased with Quintel's response; Quintet now advised Ian Oram of each new project and had provided a confidential copy of its handbook, to assist CCCBR in preparing guidance notes for ringers.

CCCBR was concerned about the companies operating outside the National Agreement. The effect on tower acoustics, both internally and externally, needed attention, but it would be expensive to carry out detailed measurements. At St Mary's Warwick the bells were to be recorded before and after the installation of the aerials equipment and the contractor had agreed to remedy any deterioration; however it was expected this would measure the volume, not the quality, of the sound of the bells.

Michael Henshaw knew of two cases where an ancillaries building had been built close to, but separate from, the tower: this made access to the equipment easier, but meant extra cabling was necessary.

Due to the state of the industry new applications for installations had not reached anticipated levels: it was thought that only about 50,000 of the new video handsets had been sold; Richard Halsey remarked that this low demand was reflected in the lack of involvement of EH staff. He mentioned the case of Durham Cathedral, where the contractor wished to replace the slate louvres with GRP louvres - this had been refused by the national Cathedral Fabric Commission for England.

5. Case of difficulty:

Great Malvern, Worcestershire - Chris Povey opened the discussion by referring to the statement that EH had made that it was minded to seek a compromise: Malvern felt that a compromise had been offered by the suggestion to erect a significant part of the existing frame as an historical record, but that nothing had been offered in return. Graham Pledger responded that EH was compromising by accepting the alterations to the frame to permit augmentation from 8 to 10.

Richard Halsey acknowledged receiving a letter on the matter from Alison Hodge of Malvern; that letter did not accept that EH had an argument for retaining the frame, and requested that EH commission another report. Graham Pledger said that EH had paid for a further report from Adrian Dempster, which stated that the problems were due to the foundation, not the frame; the report agreed that it would be possible to repair the frame; the question had not been asked whether a new frame would give a better result. Chris Povey expressed Malvern's view that the frame should be assessed on its desirability for retention; it was understood that EH's grounds for retention were that it was an example of a Taylor "tall-A" frame but that EH had agreed it was not rare. Michael Henshaw commented that if the frame was important enough to save, then repair was not the only option.

Both Michael Henshaw and Derek Sibson drew attention to the position of the PCC, which was concerned to have "value for money"; whilst the repair option might produce a result satisfactory to EH, the PCC's view would be that it wanted whatever was best for the ringers. Alison Hodge's letter sought a maximum movement in the frame of 1/16" (1.3 mm) as any more would affect the handling characteristics of the bells; the repair option appeared to anticipate movement of 1.5 mm either side of centre, i.e. up to 3 mm, which was thought to be unacceptable - further information on this tolerance was awaited.

Richard Halsey reiterated the basic philosophy of EH: preferably to retain an existing frame in use, repairing if necessary; he would talk to Alan Taylor of the regional EH office, noting that CCCBR felt that the frame was not a good example of a Taylor "tall-A" frame. If EH had to justify its position to the Chancellor, it would produce supporting evidence as necessary; however, all agreed it would be better for all parties to avoid the costs of a Consistory Court hearing.

6. Consulting EH when rehanging bells

Graham Pledger noted with regret that bellhangers were reluctant to include his note on procedures for faculty applications. Richard Halsey suggested that the bellhangers be written to again, or the forthcoming CCC seminar might be an opportunity to remind them verbally.

7. CCC seminar in November on bell conservation

Kate Flavell, Chair of the CCCBR Bell Restoration Committee and Chris Povey hoped to attend the seminar on 4th November. Richard Halsey had been invited to speak.

8. Other business:

(a) New Work in Historic Places of Worship: Richard Halsey circulated copies of this EH publication, which sets out the principles that EH applies when considering proposals for alteration or extension of such buildings.

(b) Other Cases: Graham Pledger circulated a note about two other parishes with which he had recently been involved: Romsey, Hampshire, where it is intended to dismantle the frame to allow access to the foundation beams beneath; and Stourbridge, Worcestershire, where a new engineer has been appointed to review the need for further work to the frame.

(c) National Bells Register: Michael Henshaw reported on the discussion at the May AGM of the CCCBR: progress on the pilot project had been very slow, prompting consideration of the future of the whole project. CCCBR had decided not to continue, since there would be only a small benefit to ringing, there would be considerable difficulty in maintaining the database and the cost to CCCBR could not be justified. Graham Pledger recalled similar experience with a survey of bellframes.

9. Next meeting

It was agreed to meet at Savile Row on 4th March 2004 at 4pm.

The Ringing World, December 19/26, 2003, page 1222