Secretary of State to decide fate of church’s bell ring

PLANS to reposition the bell frame of a Grade I listed church are to be considered by the Secretary of State after being recommended for approval by Mid Suffolk District Council.

The proposal for 14th century St Mary the Virgin Church, in Redgrave, involves constructing a ring of nine bells, conserving the existing six and adding three new ones, while installing a new bell frame and support steel beams.

It also proposes dismantling and re-erecting the existing 18th century wooden bell frame one floor lower down, in order to conserve it.

Bob Hayward, chairman of the Redgrave Church Heritage Trust and a member of Redgrave Parish Council, said villagers had unanimously agreed on the proposal and the parish council was in ‘100 per cent support’ of it – unlike English Heritage and the Churches Conservation Trust.

An English Heritage spokeswoman said: “The proposal to dismantle and reposition the bell frame to a lower level in the tower would disrupt the original arrangement and harm the significance of the church.

“English Heritage has advised that the appropriate conservation solution would be to retain the bell frame in situ and install a new bell frame in the chamber below.”

Chris Davies, tower captain, said leaving the bell frame in situ had been known to reduce the sound in other churches by up to 20 decibels.

“Effectively, the bells would go silent in the village,” he said.

Peter Aiers, from the CCT, said while it supported the improvement of the ring, it did not agree with the technical solution put forward.

“The CCT does not want to see the bell frame, which is original to the tower, lost from its original location,” he said, adding, “we remain open to seeking an outcome to which all parties are able to support.”