Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 23, Savile Row, London, W1 on Thursday, 13th October 2005

English Heritage - Richard Halsey, David Heath, Graham Pledger.

CCCBR - Derek Sibson, Tony Smith, Alan Frost, Ian Oram.

1. Matters Arising from previous meeting notes:

(a) Survey recording techniques: Graham Pledger reported that work had progressed although not yet completed. The survey work was being carried out by the EH Metric Survey Team in York; the purpose was primarily to find out the likely costs and advantages of producing surveys using Reflectorless Electronic Distance Measurement; the cost for St. Osyth was likely to be cheaper than Attleborough, as it was a much simpler installation. The Team was also hoping to return to Attleborough to repeat the process using laser scanning, which was better at picking up surface detail. The Team had to admit that its learning curve had added to the cost, but the model produced would be good for public demonstration as well as the production of archaeological and engineering records. Early indication was that a survey by REDM would be much more expensive than a manual one and would be too much for the parish to bear, unless some other benefit would accrue. An article would be ready hopefully before the next meeting.

(b) Council for the Care of Churches seminar on bell conservation: Alan Frost represented the CCCBR at a meeting on 23rd September, which had started to look at draft criteria for listing of bells; bellframes were not being considered at present, as there was much less data available. The meeting had felt it desirable to aim to reduce differences, by deciding which dates were significant: early dates before which all bells might be listed; a cut-off date of 30 years old now; important complete rings of the 20th century. Other matters to be addressed included deciding whether bells should be listed because of their musical qualities; and if work were proposed to a listed bell, to ask why it was so listed. It had been a constructive meeting, attended also by the Whitechapel Bellfoundry and Hayward Mills (each on their own behalf); it remained to be seen whether the Code of Practice would change. A further meeting was arranged for next January.

(c) Great Malvern: Graham Pledger had contacted the parish, which had now received the two commercial tenders to repair the existing frame, both more expensive than the quotation for a new frame; however, that was now over 2 years old and the PCC was asking for an update. It was noted that the two bellhangers had interpreted the VAT regulations differently. The PCC was to meet EH again to discuss further.

(d) Surveys of existing bellframes: Graham Pledger thought that chapter 6 of Chris Pickford's 1993 report on recording of bellframes with his further additions might be acceptable to EH, but he needed to compare this with the Code of Practice. CCCBR again stated what was needed was a clear statement for parishes, to avoid any misunderstandings.

2. EH reorganisation: EH had to leave Savile Row by 24th June next year but no new location had yet been identified. (Post-meeting note: the new headquarters will be in Holborn, but an initial move will take staff to Bunhill Row, EC1). David Heath noted that this involved some 450 people, about one-third of the total EH workforce; inevitably this would create a major upheaval, with not all staff wanting to relocate. The Birmingham office also had to be vacated in 2009; there was already a large staff at Swindon, but insufficient space to accommodate all those displaced.

Richard Halsey explained that regional office work on faculty applications would depend on the reduced numbers available for ecclesiastical work. The faculty system only required formal application to the Chancellor after the DAC and the Bells Adviser had consulted. Not all DACs had the same approach: some favoured involving EH after their Certificate had been issued, while others preferred to hear EH's views at an early stage. Guidelines would be prepared for the types of work that EH was likely to be interested in: CCCBR would be invited to comment on the draft.

Graham Pledger was concerned at the smaller number of cases being referred to him: in the previous 6-month period he had 21 cases, whereas in the last 6 months only 7 had been referred. It was not known whether EH should have been involved in more cases; a possible source to be checked were the agendas of DACs that were sent to EH. In answer to a question whether there was less bell-work around, Ian Oram commented that the Council's Bell Fund had recently been able to invite applications for grants and over 30 applications had been received, suggesting that there was plenty to be done.

3. Ecclesiastical Exemption: Richard Halsey reported that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had acknowledged that the exemption system was working, but would keep it under regular review; other denominations would each have to present their case. The exemption was linked to the heritage protection review, which aimed to bring together all legislation: the parish church and its curtilage would be designated in total: the church, its archaeology, tombstones, bells, etc, with an assessment of importance, similar to the Statement of Significance required with faculty applications.

Levels of consent would be needed for future works: the concept of management agreements was to be investigated, involving EH, the Local Authorities, and Dioceses. A "de minimis" list of works not requiring consent was to be agreed. The intention was to establish what was important at a particular site and where there was scope for change. A pilot scheme in the Bath & Wells Diocese was being set up to identify problems.

David Heath drew attention to the massive resource implications of the proposals, particularly arising from the heritage protection review aiming at unified consents. The DCMS decision to continue with the Ecclesiastical Exemption was not helpful, in the sense that the exemption by denomination did not lead to a straightforward crossover to a new unified consent that involved local authorities. The proposed heritage protection agreements were therefore a potential for difficulty, as practice was bound to differ from area to area and it would become difficult for the Church of England to maintain consistency within a diocese covering many local authorities.

Richard Halsey wondered what the effect on bells would be: whereas bellframes were considered part of the fabric, bells were deemed to be fittings. There were similar concerns over sculpture, monuments, valuable pieces of furniture, etc; many of these items were part of the national heritage, fixed or not, though they may not be relevant to the church of today. Some will belong to the PCC, but others may have been created as a memorial and so remain the property of the donor.

Concluding this discussion, it was pointed out that no money had been allocated for this work.

4. Cases of difficulty: none had been notified.

5. Next meeting - it was agreed to meet at a location to be advised on 16th March 2006 at 4pm.

(now confirmed as Savile Row, London W1).

The Ringing World, January 27, 2006, page 77