Newspaper Article: 28 August 2012

The North Staffordshire evening paper, The Sentinel, published the following article on 28 August 2012. The Ringing World Editor wrote a letter in response to the article, and this has also been published below.

Bells all set to ring out again in Hanley

THE sound of church bells ringing across the city centre could be set to return after more than 20 years.

Developers Church Converts want to overhaul the tower at Hanley’s St John’s Church and transform it into a venue to teach school children and enthusiasts the art of bell ringing.

  1. IDEA Hanley's St John's Church

And the firm – which bought the historic Town Road church in 2009 – is appealing for help to fund the £160,000 project.

If successful, the scheme known as The Potteries Ringing Centre, will see the tower converted to boast a classroom and viewing area.

Simon Linford, a partner in the firm, said: “In bell-ringing terms the tower has a famous ring of bells, but they have been silent for around 20 years.

“Just restoring the bells for the sake of it is worthwhile, but doesn’t add as much value to the scheme as what we are planning with the ringing centre.”

The tower currently plays host to 10 historic bells which date back to 1923. They were built by renowned bell manufacturer Gillett & Johnston.

Two of the bells were inscribed following the First World War as a memorial.

In 2010, Church Converts unveiled plans to move the bells from the Grade II-listed Potteries church to St Michael’s, in Stone.

However, that scheme was rejected by Stoke-on-Trent City Council following objections from residents.

Now the bells are set to play a big role in the developers’ plans for the site.

The firm will look to lower the bells to make them easier for enthusiasts to learn how to use them.

It will also allow a viewing area to be set up.

Simon said: “This will be a place where people can come and learn how to ring bells.

“It will also be used by school children who can come and learn about them and their history.

“But we are looking for the support of businesses or individuals to fund their restoration.

“We are also planning to look into the grants that could be available to us.”

The firm has spent roughly £100,000 repairing the tower, and has installed sound vents which will make the sound of the bells inaudible to the outside when necessary.

A further £400,000 has also been spent overhauling the church, and the company says it is currently speaking to two restaurants interested in opening at the facility.

Along with those plans, the tower will also be marketed to climbing firms interested in using it for abseiling.

Prebendary Richard Grigson, chairman of the Diocese of Lichfield Mission and Pastoral Committee, and vicar of Smallthorne, said: “It will be good to hear the bells ringing and know that the next generation of ringers are being taught the art in the Potteries.”

Anyone interested in the project should e-mail enquiries@hanleybells.org.uk.

Courtesy of The Sentinel www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/Bells-set-ring-Hanley/story-16776125-detail/story.html

Dear Sir,

I was delighted to read in the 28th August edition of The Sentinel about the launch of a project to restore the ten bells of the former church of St. John, Hanley in situ to create a centre for teaching the art of change ringing.

The article mentioned a campaign in The Ringing World which supported moving the bells to Stone. That ‘campaign’ was motivated  by a desire on the part of bell ringers nationwide to see the fine -but long derelict – Gillett & Johnston bells saved and returned to ringing condition. At that time it seemed their most likely fate would be to remain silent and “entombed” forever in the disused tower at Hanley. Thankfully that prospect has now changed dramatically.

The concept of establishing a ringing teaching centre as part of the church conversion at Hanley is a brilliant and imaginative one.  If it succeeds it will provide an interesting and valuable heritage resource for local people as well as ensuring the future of a great peal of bells in its original home. Congratulations are due to Simon Linford and everyone involved in developing this exciting scheme.  I wish it well and feel optimistic that bell ringers everywhere will support it generously.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Lewis,
Editor,
The Ringing World,
(The Weekly Journal for Church Bell Ringers)