Bell Restoration

Following concerns that the bell at St Mary’s, Astley, had not been rotated for many years the PCC commissioned a report in 2010 from John Taylor & Co, bell founders, into the condition of the bell.  The report indicated that some important work was necessary to ensure that the bell remained in good condition for the foreseeable future; it was estimated that from the time of the installation of the memorial clock in 1919 the ancient bell would have tolled about 40 times a week for services and struck by the clock hammer 1,200 times a week.
 
However, the most surprising information to come out of the report was that the bell in Astley Church was cast in about 1270 and most likely to have been made in the village by a travelling bell founder at that time.  The bell, together with upper bell at Withington, is the oldest bell in the Lichfield Diocese and among only a very few bells in England cast before 1300. It is therefore of exceptional historical significance.

Although the tower was added to the church as recently as 1837 during its Victorian refurbishment, recent research in the Shropshire Archives unearthed a watercolour of the church in 1786 showing  the chapel, as it then was, with a small wooden bell housing on the roof, from where the bell would have sounded for over 400 years.
Following discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund, who were keen to support our proposal to restore the bell, to provide appropriate interpretation material and involve the local primary school, funding was secured from the HLF and a number of local sponsors including the Loton and Tern Local Joint Committee, Astley Parish Council, Wynnstay (Astley) and the Millichope Foundation.

A second bell of similar size and tone was procured from the Keltek Trust for the clock strike, and on 23rd November 2011 both bells were removed to the Taylor’s foundry for conservation and repair.  The bells were returned to St Mary’s on 6th March 2012 and exhibited for parishioners that afternoon before re-dedication at a special commemorative service; the following morning local schoolchildren had an opportunity to see the bells before their installation in the tower.  The original bell, now named Mary after our patron saint, is rung to announce services, while the new bell, named Elizabeth to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, chimes the hours.  

The Parochial Church Council would like to express their grateful thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and all sponsors for their generous financial support.