The ‘old’ Butterton Parish Church underwent repairs in 1780-1781 at which time it had a tower and two bells one of which was known to be cast in 1677. The Parish Church was rebuilt 1871-3 with a tower and the original two bells, designed by Ewan Christian. A spire, designed by Sugden was added in 1879, with 3 new bells, manufactured by Taylor’s of Loughborough, presumably being installed in the church tower at this time. The fate of the original two bells is unknown. The building is Grade II listed.
Over time the wooden bell frame had begun to rot and the bells had fallen into disuse with nobody in the village remembering the bells having been rung within the last 20 years due to safety concerns. In 2012, at the time of installing a new kitchen and toilet in the base of the bell tower and due to the unsafe condition of the bell frame, the bells were removed from the church and taken back to Taylor’s Bell Foundry in Loughborough for inspection prior to any potential future refurbishment and for storage.
The village History Group has recently formally established that Butterton qualifies as a “Thankful Village” with all of the villagers who went off to fight in the First World War returning safely. In fact Butterton is the only village in Staffordshire with this honour. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thankful_villages or http://www.hellfirecorner.co.uk/TV/butterton.htm) The project plans the refurbishment and reinstallation of the original three Church Bells, plus their augmentation to a ring of six to act as a focus for the celebration of this event on its 100th anniversary and to act as a lasting memorial to the village’s good fortune and to those heroes who went off to war and returned safely. With help from the Keltek Trust we had originally identified bells being removed from Cheltenham Minster as being suitable with two bells manufactured by John Rudhall in 1823 and 1833 and one by Mears & Stainbank in 1883. However, two more suitable bells both manufactured by John Taylor and Co. in 1869, rescued from St Mary's Church, Mirfield, W. Yorkshire, have recently been identified and swapped for the Cheltenham Bells. These bells are from the same era and manufacturer as our original three bells and are an ideal match to augment our three bells. Furthermore, the Trustees of the Keltek Trust have very generously offered to pay for the casting and inscription of a brand new Treble Bell by Taylor's which will become our 'Thankful' Bell. Additionally, we aim to establish facilities for a bell ringing school using the newly installed ring of six. Sensors on the bells linked to computers running bell ringing simulation software will allow for training with the bells silenced. The kitchen, toilet and small meeting room in the base of the tower provide fairly unique facilities which are ideal for the establishment of such a school.
We held a bells launch event in January 2017 to celebrate our Heritage Lottery Grant and the imminent commencement of work. We had a stall at the Manifold Show and also raised money at the Butterton Wakes. Money has also been collected at other events throughout the year. A number of families have also generously donated to have an inscription on the new bell headstocks.
Building work in the church to enable the installation of the bells was completed by mid 2017. The new 'Thankful Bell" was cast on 3rd August 2017. A trip to Taylor's to view this event was enjoyed by all who went. The new bell frame and bells were installed in the church in January 2018.
On the 15th January 2018, after the bells were delivered to the church, a Hallowing of the Bells Service took place conducted by the Bishop of Stafford, the Right Reverend Geoff Annas. Here the bells were blessed prior to their installation. Following their installation, on the 7th June 2018 a Dedication of the Bells Service was held, again with the Bishop of Stafford, the Right Reverend Geoff Annas, officiating.
New bell ringers from Butterton have been recruited and training began in June 2018. Along with more experienced ringers from Wetton, Alstonefield and surrounds a new group of bell ringers has been formed, the Manifold Ringers, who now ring regularly at Butterton, Wetton and Alstonefield Parish Churches.
The project was completed in time to mark the 100th anniversary of becoming a Thankful Village in November 2018.
Armistice Day, 11th November 2018 was a day of celebration in Butterton. It marked the centenary of the end of the Great War and hence also the centenary of Butterton becoming a ‘Thankful Village’ with all parishioners who went off to war returning. The muffled bells were rung for the morning service with the newly trained bell ringers participating. The tenor bell was rung eleven times at 11am. In the afternoon there was the first ever three-hour full peal of our recently installed bells (Surprise Minor, 7 methods). As part of the large-scale British project, ‘Battle’s Over – A Nation’s Tribute’, our bells were rung again at 7.05pm with the new bell ringers participating. This coincided with the lighting of a beacon at the Village Hall.
The six bells are now rung regularly for Sunday services and other events.
For more pictures of the project click here.
We are very pleased to report that our project has been supported by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we were able to press ahead with our project. We also gratefully acknowledge the donation of a new treble bell as our 'Thankful Bell' by the Keltek Trust trustees. Also not forgetting all the other generous donations we have received over the life of this project.
Bells following removal