National Lottery Heritage Fund gives £91,000 grant towards St Michael's Church £275,000 bells restoration appeal
A project to restore the bells at St Michael’s Church in Bishop’s Stortford has chimed with the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).
It has boosted the Windhill church's £275,000 appeal with a £91,000 grant – and work is now set to begin next Easter and take six months to complete.
The bells rang out in 1630 when King Charles I dined at The George in North Street and for national celebrations marking the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the turn of the new Millennium and the centenary of the end of the First World War.
The church’s tower captain, Nick Hughes, said: “We're delighted to have received such a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our thanks go out to all the National Lottery players who have enabled the much-needed work to the town’s bells to go ahead.”
There has been a place of worship on the Windhill site since the 7th century. The current parish church was largely built in the early 15th century and restored in the 17th and 19th centuries.
The upper part of the tower and the spire date from the early 1800s, but there have been bells in the church since the early 1400s.
The present ring of 10 was installed in 1820 in the existing 1713 wooden frame after the tower and spire were rebuilt in 1819. Since then, the only other work on the bells was retuning in 1928.
They need urgent refurbishment and rehanging in a new frame due to cracking in the tower. This has occurred because the two largest bells are hung against the weaker west wall and swing in a north/south direction, resulting in increased stress to the building. This also makes them difficult to ring. The hope is that the work next year will preserve them for at least another century.
Seven of the bells will be retuned and the remaining three will be replaced. The project also includes installing shutters over the louvres to provide a better means of sound control.
A viewing gallery and a safer ladder system giving access to the clock chamber, bell chamber and roof will enhance the tower’s popular open days.
The Lottery funding will promote community engagement including introducing young people to the historic and complex art of ringing with modern digital training techniques.
Children will also be invited to explore the biodiversity of the church grounds by means of a nature survey and develop a plan to encourage more wildlife.
Anne Jenkins, director of the England Midlands and East region of the NLHF, said: “The bells of St Michael’s have played a significant role in many important moments and memories in the lives of the community. We are proud to support their restoration and thank National Lottery players whose support made this possible.”