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Roadshow seeks to help unloved bells

05 September 2014

iSTOCK

CHURCHES with unloved and neglected bells are being invited to a conference to learn how to return them to their former splendour.

John Barnes, from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, said that a dozen churches had already confirmed their attendance at the Ringing Roadshow, at Newbury racecourse, on Saturday.

The problem of church bells' becoming unringable owing to neglect was widespread, Mr Barnes said on Tuesday. His own survey of every church in a 75-mile radius of Newbury showed that there were 284 churches that had bells that could no longer be rung properly.

But the real problem was a lack of interest, Mr Barnes said. "If bells become difficult to ring . . . very often ringing dies out. Out of sight tends to be out of mind, and the eventual situation is that the bell chamber becomes derelict."

There has been a steady decline in the number of bell-ringing enthusiasts, Mr Barnes said. "We no longer get boys into ringing from the choir . . . as we used to. As older ringers died out, some rings of bells have become neglected."

It can cost up to £70,000 to restore bells to full working order, and that does not include repairs to bell towers, Mr Barnes said. But as lottery and heritage grants were available, lack of knowledge, not money, was the main barrier to getting old bells ringing again.

His presentation at the Ringing Roadshow will focus on how to secure grants for bell repairs, as well as launching fund-raising appeals. Mr Barnes may by contacted by email to john4bells@waitrose.com, or by telephone on 01689 853666.

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