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Historic England grant helps bell ringing in Brierley Hill

Published: 23rd December 2022

St Michael, Brierley HillAs part of the Brierley Hill High Street Heritage Action Zone, a £1,500 grant has been awarded to the bell ringers of the Grade II listed St Michael’s Church to enable them to buy equipment that allows them to practice in silence and as individuals outside of group gatherings.

St Michael’s Church was built in 1765, with several alterations taking place during the 1800s. In 1900 the bell tower was returned to its original 18th century style. The church bells would have called local parishioners to service at the Anglican church.

Local resident, Tim Sunter took up bellringing in 2014 after seeing a tweet noting that the bells of St Michael’s didn’t ring any more.  In 2017, Tim and his wife Jenny were handed the keys to St Michael’s Church tower so the bells, which collectively weigh the equivalent of three Mini cars, could once again ring out over the town.Bellringers at Bierley Hill

The band now has volunteer ringers of all ages - aged nine to 75 - who ring the bells at practice on Friday evenings and before church services on Sundays. One of the challenges was how to get new ringers trained up without disturbing the church’s neighbours.

Tim said: “We have very supportive residents and we are mindful that not everyone wants to hear the sounds of bells during teaching sessions.  This money has meant we could buy a bell simulator and software. This means we can now teach and run learning sessions without the bells being heard outside of the tower.”

Young boy bell ringingPeople of Brierley Hill have responded warmly to the church bells and the ringers have been surprised by the lovely feedback they have had from the local community, especially when they returned from a hiatus due to Covid.

Tim continued: “During the restrictions we could not practice or ring the bells as the tower is a closed environment. When we came back there were lots of positive comments on social media and there was even a card left in the church that simply said, ‘Lovely to hear you back’ and signed by residents of a road adjacent road to the church. It’s great that people are enthusiastic. I would encourage more people to get involved with bellringing. It’s a great team activity, provides gentle exercise, and is for any age or religious background. It’s a wonderful way to get involved in local community life and to make friends whilst supporting local heritage.”

Watch a short film about the bell ringers

Deborah Williams, Historic England’s Head of Region for the Midlands, said: “This project shows that even a small grant can make a difference to a community. We’re proud to be playing a part in enabling the bellringing group to improve their skills but also to bring joy to the town of Brierley Hill.  

Brierley Hill MP Mike Wood said: “I’m so pleased the fantastic bell ringers at St Michael’s will directly benefit from this government funding through Historic England. The sound of church bells ringing across Brierley Hill is a real joy to hear, so the fact this equipment will make it easier to train new bell ringers really is brilliant.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “Thanks to Historic England for supporting the bell ringers of St Michael’s Church. It’s clear there is a real enthusiasm within the church and the wider community to keep the bell ringing tradition alive.”

Page last updated: Friday 23rd December 2022 10:18 AM

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