Central Council of Church Bell Ringers Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Thursday, 14th October 2004

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, Graham Pledger.

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

1. Matters Arising from previous meeting notes:

(a) Conservation Statement: Chris Povey had ascertained that the final version of "Tower Changes" would be ready in a couple of weeks.

(b) Roadshow: Graham Pledger said that he was awaiting some factual information to enable him to prepare the article on the survey recording techniques at Attleborough and St. Osyth. Part of the survey at St. Osyth was being used in the educational display required by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and also in an educational pack being distributed to schools. Richard Halsey added that EH was unable to provide finance for the metric survey team to carry out further work. Michael Henshaw suggested that an article about the St. Osyth restoration project would be of interest to readers of The Ringing World.

(c) Consulting EH when rehanging bells: it was agreed that no further action could be taken. However, CCCBR offered a contact link from the Towers & Belfries Committee web page to EH via e-mail; EH agreed that this would be useful and would consider setting up a generic address to facilitate this. (Post-meeting note: the address is bells@english-heritage.org.uk)

(d) Council for the Care of Churches (CCC) seminar on bell conservation: Michael Henshaw reported on the meeting with CCC on 18th June, when the results of the consultation on the proposals for listing bells and frames were discussed. Richard Halsey noted that EH was invited to comment (he would send CCCBR a copy of those comments) but there had been no formal meeting between CCC and EH. Michael Henshaw thought that their meeting had been constructive, with CCC valuing CCCBR's input. Richard Halsey added that David Knight of CCC had spoken at the recent DAC Conference, noting the completion of the consultation and that contact with interested parties would continue.

(e) Great Malvern: Graham Pledger advised of an informal meeting the previous week between EH and a representative of the PCC, where various aspects of the bellframe were discussed. He also advised that he had looked at the bellframe at St. Cuthbert's, Wells, which has a similar frame to Great Malvern.

(f) Surveys of existing bellframes: CCCBR had asked EH to produce detailed specifications of what was required. Graham Pledger reported on the case of Beddington, where the Chancellor had suggested that photographs would be sufficient, but EH had asked for plans and sections; these were now being drawn up by an acknowledged bellframe specialist recorder, who was also working on a survey for St. Helen's Abingdon and had just completed a survey at Holy Cross, Crediton. Graham Pledger had sought this recorder's views on a model specification and would try to incorporate these in a draft model document; Michael Henshaw suggested that the Towers & Belfries Committee be asked to comment on EH's draft specification in due course; he stressed that what parishes needed was just one clearly-defined request from EH.

2. Your Heritage

Richard Halsey commented that, due to financial constraints, EH had no involvement with this scheme. Ian Oram noted that bell projects that met HLF's criteria continued to be awarded substantial grants.

3. Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

Richard Halsey did not expect any change to this scheme in the foreseeable future.

4. Radio Aerials in Churches

Michael Henshaw reported that CCCBR had recently written to all Diocesan Chancellors, summarising views on aerial installations from the perspective of ringers, noting the aspects that had been given insufficient consideration and stressing the need to get good advice, such as for acoustics. CCCBR had noticed that some DAC advisers did not feel competent to advise on aerial installations. Attention was also drawn to those towers with few or no bells, where an aerial installation could prejudice the future provision of bells. A similar letter was to be sent to Diocesan Registrars. Michael Henshaw was concerned that the current plans for monitoring long-term effects were not satisfactory, in that the results were not made public. It was apparent that there were fewer applications for new installations than had been expected. CCCBR was to have a review meeting with QS4 in January.

5. Roadshow 2005

Michael Henshaw invited EH to participate again; Richard Halsey and Graham Pledger agreed to consider and will respond as soon as possible.

6. Other business:

(a) EH reorganisation: Richard Halsey explained that the Planning and Development Group within EH was being rationalised; the major effect was that all Regional and Assistant Regional Director posts would be replaced with new, but fewer, positions. The new Regional Directors would be the external face of EH and would have no Assistants. However, Case Work Team Leaders would be recruited from the existing staff of architects, planners, etc to work in geographic areas and be the interface with DACs. At the senior level there would be 4 Territorial Directors. EH staff would be reducing their detailed input on statutory casework, including faculty applications, only commenting on those cases that needed EH input. At the same time, more training and guidance notes were to be offered. Richard Halsey was to be appointed Places of Worship Strategy Implementation Manager; the Church of England faced a financial crisis with too many churches and the Government was keen for churches to be used more by the community as meeting places, etc. He expected to work more with HLF, to identify areas of need; the Repair Grants Scheme was due for review next March - was it the right scheme?

(b) Ecclesiastical Exemption: about 80 responses to the consultation had been received; the analysis of these had only just been concluded, for presentation to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Ministers. The person in charge had moved to another department and a replacement had not yet been recruited; further consultation may be necessary. It was anticipated that EH would still be consulted on faculty applications. Diocesan Chancellors were proposing changes to the De Minimis rules; it was hoped that there could be more consistency across dioceses and that more work could be covered by Archdeacons' Certificates.

(c) Acoustics: Graham Pledger noted that in many restoration schemes the bells were to be rehung in a frame lower in the tower; this prompted the question "would the bells be heard?" Michael Henshaw agreed that this was not considered in most cases, as a proper analysis of the effect of lowering the bells was complicated and prohibitively expensive. On a related matter the Towers & Belfries Committee website had added acoustic considerations to its information on aerial installations; the letter to Chancellors had suggested that the aerials installer should rectify any adverse effect on acoustics.

7. Next meeting

it was agreed to meet at Savile Row on 17th March 2005 at 4 p.m.

The Ringing World, January 28, 2005, page 75