West Hanningfield Bells Restoration Project
Update August 2020
First phase completed
It is over a year since the Church bells were taken down and sent to John Taylors bell foundry in Loughborough, initially for safe keeping.
The bells had to be taken down for health and safety reasons: some of the headstocks were in a very sorry state. This has given the archaeological and carpentry experts unhindered access to study the bellframe and tower to assess their significance, what repairs need to be carried out and, very importantly, how it should be done in order to preserve the heritage.
How are we preserving our heritage?
The bell tower has been standing since circa 1383 and now two of the huge supporting uprights need repair. The rotten wood at their base needs to be removed and replaced while the tower is supported by a scaffolding structure.
The medieval bell frame, which is of national archaeological importance, requires careful restoration and repair work in accordance with the advice received from the number of experts who have studied it.
Before the bells can be rehung, they need to undergo some restoration work, including new wheels and fittings, to make them safe and in good order for the next couple of hundred years. This work will be carried out by Taylors in Loughborough.
The bells are a unique set of 4 Miles Graye the Younger bells dating from 1676. Other churches have bells by the same bell founder but ours are the only set remaining that can be restored to ring full circle.
Just before the pandemic struck, we had a very keen group of local village people learning the skills of bell ringing. We know already that many enthusiasts from across the country, and some from abroad, would love the opportunity to ring our unique set of bells.
The bell tower was constructed after the Black Death plague of 1360 and Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The bells were cast after the Great Plague of 1665. How fitting that the restoration of the bell tower, bell frame and bells could help mark the end of the global Covid 19 pandemic.
What happens next?
The first step is to repair the tower structure and the bell frame.Once this has been done, the bells can be restored and rehung. With all approvals in place, and following 6 years of preparation, we are now in a position to proceed once the funding is in place.
What can you do to help?
The cost of this whole project is £78,000. The corona virus pandemic has severely hampered our fundraising efforts but we are still working hard to get grants for the majority of the funds needed. Any donations would be most welcome, however big or small.
They can be made to:
West Hanningfield PCC
Sort Code 20-19-95
Account No 40489883
If you are able to Gift Aid your donation please get in touch with the churchwarden 01245 400532
As part of our exhibition of some of the original woodwork and metal fittings used to hang and ring the bells, we hope to display a list of any donors who wish to appear on it. We are also looking at the possibility of getting names cast into the new headstocks of the bells. Watch out for details soon or get in touch
Ann Usher, Churchwarden
On behalf of the PCC