English Heritage

The report of the first meeting between the Officers of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and representatives of English Heritage was reported in The Ringing World of 13 January 1995. A second meeting with English Heritage took place on Thursday 2 March 1995. The following attended: Messrs Richard Halsey and Graham Pledger and Mrs Sally Embree of EH; Dr Thomas Cocke of the Council for the Care of Churches (CCC); and the President and Secretary of the Central Council and the Chairmen of the Bell Restoration Funds and Towers and Belfries Committees (Messrs John Barnes and Alan Frost). The following is a report of that meeting, written by the Secretary and Agreed with EH.

  1. National Lottery - The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) had recently issued Lottery Update No 4, which contained the following paragraph: "The Heritage Lottery Fund is able to consider applications for restoring and conserving church bells and organs to maintain historical integrity in a heritage setting. However, the Fund is not able to assist with maintenance and replacement of parts merely for the purpose of modernising the bells or organs to make them easier to play."

  2. At the meeting Mrs Embree explained that EH was acting as expert adviser to the NHMF and that they were being consulted on applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund relating to ancient monuments, sites of archaeological importance, historic buildings and their contents, designed landscapes and industrial archaeology in England. The NHMF would hold back any applications which did not comply with the relevant criteria, but most, including those for bell schemes, would be referred to EH. To meet the heritage criterion the bells, frame or tower needed to be of national or local importance. In addition, the NHMF would wish to be assured that there were no greater priorities for repair in the church or other building containing the bells, that the tower itself was in a good state of repair and that any funding would be in addition to, rather than in place of, any Government grant. The general requirement for public access was likely to be met if the church or other building was open to the public.

  3. While EH would advise on the merits of applications, NHMF would also apply other criteria, such as the need to provide a good geographical spread of funding. NHMF would expect to determine applications within five months of receipt. If funds in any year were exhausted, NHMF might advise applicants to reapply for the following year. They would not normally expect to consider projects with a total cost of less than £10,000 and the Heritage Lottery Fund would not provide 100% of the total costs of any project, as the partnership concept was important. No formula for percentage grants had yet emerged: it would be for the NHMF Trustees to decide the proportion in the light of each application. It would be necessary to ensure that the money would be spent within a specified period.

  4. Mr Halsey said that EH would have to commission individuals to provide them with independent expert advice, for which payment would be made. EH would liaise with the CCC to create a nationwide list of bell experts and to devise an appropriate brief. Advice on lottery funding would have to be given alongside the normal activities of EH and the CCC, and it was important to ensure that consistent advice was given. It was recognised that the number of experts available to give advice on grants for bell schemes would be limited.

  5. EH wished to ensure that potential applicants received the best possible advice. A leaflet would be produced by NHMF giving guidelines for applications by churches and it should be possible to include guidance on applications for bell schemes. It was agreed that the Central Council could assist by offering guidance through The Ringing World. This should be based on the paragraph from Lottery Update quoted above and should make it clear that funding was unlikely to be available for new bells or new bellframes alone. The Millennium Fund may well be interested in helping to create new rings of bells, but the Central Council should investigate that with them. EH would be able to guide the Central Council better on Lottery Fund applications after a number had been considered by the NHMF Trustees.

  6. Bells and bell frames - It had been agreed at the first meeting that it might be useful to discuss the principles arising from particular cases of difficulty where EH were involved. Two such cases were discussed in some detail. In the first case one possibility was to rehang the five bells in the existing frame. Another was to install a new frame for six bells lower in the tower, leaving the old bell frame in its existing position with the minimum of repair. There were, however, difficulties with both proposals and it was agreed that a site meeting attended by all the interested parties would be beneficial. The second case concerned a larger ring in an old frame. Major restoration work has been carried out in 1991, but there was still substantial frame movement, making the bells difficult to ring. It was accepted that with this type of frame a with degree of maintenance would always be required.

  7. The Essex bellframe survey - EH reported that the field work had been completed, but some historical record searches were still to be done. The work would continue a little way into the next financial year. Mr Barnes mentioned the survey of 3 and 4-bell towers being carried out by the CC Bell Restoration Funds Committee, and Dr Cocke asked that the results should be fed through to the CCC.

  8. Code of Practice on the Conservation and Repair of Bells and Bellframes - Some concerns were expressed regarding the application of the principles of the Code in assessing bells which were not listed and on the tuning of bells. Dr Cocke said that he was arranging a meeting of interested parties to discuss the application of the Code for November 1995 and he would ensure that these issues were raised at that meeting.

  9. Leaflet on EH's role in work on historic churches - The leaflet on the system of control over work on historic churches, which had been mentioned at the first meeting, had been produced and copies were distributed.

  10. Conclusion - In thanking the EH representatives for the meeting, Mr Rogers offered the assistance of the Central Council in advising on applications for lottery funding for bell schemes.

  11. The Ringing World, April 28, 1995, pages 441 to 442