Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Meeting with English Heritage

Notes of a meeting held at 1, Waterhouse Square, London, EC1 on Friday, 3rd April 2009

English Heritage - Diana Evans, Graham Pledger

CCCBR - Tony Smith, Kate Flavell, James Clarke, Ian Oram

1. Matters Arising from previous meeting notes:

(a) Surveys of existing bellframes: a further draft of the Specification for bellframe recording had been circulated. Graham Pledger thought that a diagram could be added to identify terms used. Tony Smith drew attention to several typing and grammatical errors and passed these to Graham Pledger for action. This improved draft would be passed to David Knight to enable the Bells Committee of the Church Buildings Council (CBC) to comment further: CBC favoured a joint presentation of the Specification, as it was keen for advice to be included about when recording should take place, even if no work was anticipated. It was agreed that the draft could be used as interim guidance.

(b) CCCBR Reports: James Clarke will arrange for T&BC members to provide him with a list of parishes where reports had been made, for passing to EH.

(c) Bell Advisors Conference: another conference had been arranged for 17th June, when visits would be made to two churches in London, where restoration work was in progress.

(d) Building-in steel beam-ends: James Clarke had prepared an article, on which both Graham Pledger and Adrian Dempster had commented; when finalised it would be submitted to the Ecclesiastical Architects Association for its magazine; Graham Pledger asked for a copy that he could send to EH Architects. Tony Smith suggested that other parties might be interested, e.g. Structural Engineers. Hopefully EAA members would comment on the article.

2. The Heritage Protection Bill: although the Bill was not included in the Queen's Speech, English Heritage considered that much of the Bill's intentions could be achieved without legislation; the Bill might return at a later date. In the meantime Heritage Protection work continued: 660 places of worship had been surveyed and new listing descriptions were in hand changing the obsolete ABC grades to conform with the current I, II* and II designation system, which would help any applications for grants.

3. Cases of difficulty:

(a) Great Malvern: the Chancellor announced his Judgment on 24th February. Graham Pledger referred to paragraphs 120 and 136, where it was noted that repair would be cheaper than new. James Clarke observed that as two previous attempts at repairs had been unsuccessful, the ringers had no faith that another repair option would work, so nothing may be done: Graham Pledger added that EH would be frustrated if that were the case, as EH had paid for the design of such option. In hindsight it was agreed that, on the evidence provided, the Chancellor was unlikely to have reached any other decision.

(b) Frames of Significance: Graham Pledger drew attention to recent cases where the Chancellors of different Dioceses had apparently not given weight to the recommendations of conservation bodies and had awarded faculties that allowed historic frames to be removed. Although these decisions enabled ringing using modern fittings to continue, EH felt that they did not protect the heritage of ringing or the integrity of the historic tradition of the bell installation within these places of worship. As the Chancellors appeared not to have given consultees the opportunities to comment and object under the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure, EH might need to take a more robust stance at the preliminary consultation stage of works relating to bells in future.

4. Places of Worship Support Officers: English Heritage introduced this new programme, which was designed to provide Support Officers to work with a congregation to help maintain buildings and seek wider use of places of worship. Over £1.5 million had been set aside over 3 years to provide over 30 Officers to be employed by Dioceses and other faith groups. There had already been around 40 enquiries from various parts of the country; different partnerships were being explored including local authorities and tourism initiatives as well as ecumenical and interfaith groups. There was an opportunity for encouraging educational outreach by parishes and bells might be a one element of this in some situations.

Tony Smith explained to EH the purpose of setting up the Ringing Foundation Limited, to find better ways of using financial resources to create ringers of the future: there was possibly a parallel for parishes with the Support Officers and therefore the article from Conservation Bulletin would be copied to the Foundation.

5. Other business:

Graham Pledger referred to the preparation of an EH publication "Metals and Glass", which would cover many aspects of practical building conservation and had a section on bells. CCCBR members made suggestions for photographs on bells that would enhance the text.

6. Next meeting - Diana Evans suggested that future meetings be combined with those between CBC and CCCBR. Ian Oram would contact CBC.

The Ringing World, June 26, 2009, page 656