Church finally rings the changes

The Rev Hugh Baker sees the changing of the bells as a positive opportunity.
The Rev Hugh Baker sees the changing of the bells as a positive opportunity.

We’ve all heard of people not turning up on time for jobs, but spare a thought for a Mirfield church which looks set for a repair 144 years late!

St Mary The Virgin is to say goodbye to its historic bells, which next month will be taken out and replaced with new ones, after repairs were first suggested in 1871.

When the bells were installed, there were complaints from seasoned ringers that the chimes were off-key due to a mistake in the way they were cast. The church was offered the chance to replace them, but decided they didn’t want the hassle.

The Rev Hugh Baker said: “I suppose it is one of the most overdue repair jobs ever!

“There are a number of reasons why we are replacing them now though – particularly the mechanism, which needs renovating to make sure it lasts.

“There are 10 bells in the tower – it is unusual in this country to have a tower with so many bells and ringers are always keen to come and ring here.”

The total cost of the project will be £77,000 plus another £5,000 for the lifting beam and another £5,000 to repair the louvres after removing them to bring in the lifting beam.

But the bulk of the costs will be made up for with a heritage lottery grant, while the family of the late John Crossland has donated £10,000 to recast one of the bells and are hoping to name it Uncle John. The bell ringers themselves have raised £65,000 by running a Saturday café and other events.

The tower will go silent after one final concert on Easter Sunday. It is expected to stay silent until at least September, at which time of the bells will have been melted down and recast.

“We need to make the bells safe,” said the Rev Baker. “So we may as well do it now.”

“This is definitely positive for us. It is a big thing and does not happen very often – we should take advantage of the occasion.”