The bells of St Peter’s Church in Ruthin have been removed and taken for restoration.
The £150,000 project to overhaul the eight bells, bought by public subscription in the nineteenth century, will enable the peal of eight to be rung again safely. The restoration work involves building a new metal frame to replace the ancient oak frame, creating better access to the bell tower and re-tuning all the bells. One of the bells is cracked and will need to be repaired.
The bells have been taken to John Taylor & Co Bellfounders in Loughborough where six out of the eight bells were originally cast in 1843. Steve Westerman from Taylor’s has overseen the removal of the bells, assisted by a team of local volunteers.
Peter Furniss, from the North Wales Association of Bells Ringers, who is an advisor to this project, said: “It’s been a difficult job to remove all the bells. We’ve had to remove sections of the floor on the upper levels of the tower to lower the bells down. The floors will all be repaired and reinforced so access to the tower in future is safer and people of all ages will be able to ring the bells.”
Archives show that “a great bell” has been rung at St Peter’s since at least 1654 and by 1788 the church had a peal of six. These were replaced in 1843, funded by public subscription, and two new trebles added in 1889, to make a peal of eight. By the 1970s rumours that the church spire was structurally unsafe, stopped the bells being run regularly. Today, only the curfew bell was rung weekly, a reminder of its role in the medieval period when the town’s gates were closed at 8pm.
A £96,000 grant raised by National Lottery players has been awarded to the church to support this project, which includes training a new generation of bell ringers. Local schools have been asked to participate in the project with several competitions launched to inspire young people to take up bell-ringing. The project coordinator, Jennifer Trigger said: “Anyone over 12 years old can learn to ring bells and free lessons will be available when our bells return in March.
“We’re asking children in the Ruthin primary schools to design a logo for our restoration project. Lottie is the name of the bell which needs to be repaired and we’d like the children to design a friendly and fun look for Lottie, which will be our logo. We’re asking secondary school age children to create an animation explaining the restoration work being carried out and, for older teenagers, the history of the bells.
“Ruthin Craft Centre has agreed to host an exhibition of the competition entries between March and June, which is very good news.”
All the bells and the church clock have been removed for restoration, meaning there will be no chimes in Ruthin over the coming months. The bells are expected to return by the end of March when they will be blessed in a special ceremony by the Bishop of St Asaph before being re-installed in the tower.