Chapter 6 - Fund Raising and Restoration

Fund-Raising, Restoration Work and the Bell Restoration Fund

The Bell Restoration Fund was initially set up ***** details?

In 1972 the Management Committee set out to increase its value from £150 to £1000. The action was led by Bill Harford, who was elected Master in 1973, and who almost single handedly raised £260 by organising a raffle. The £1000 target was reached in 1976, with a balance of almost £1300 at the end of that year. The point had been made, and the example had been set. With many new fund raising ideas, the Fund grew steadily to almost £3000 at the end of 1983, passing £10,000 during 1990, and reaching £19,000 by the end of the Centenary year.

During the 80s the general level of grants from the Fund increased. In the late 70s it became possible to make a grant of over £500 where appropriate, and the sum of £1000 was given several times in the 80s. On average about two grants per year are given. It would seem that the number and value of grants have encouraged people to donate to the Fund, coupled with our lively publicity about it, and a continual flow of new ideas. A high point of the Fund was the gift of £3,000 to Llandaff Cathedral in 1992, the largest donation up to that time, which enabled the Association to donate the new 6th bell, named "Gwynllyw", when the restoration project was carried out.

Since 1992 several grants over £1000 have been made, notably £3,000 to Cardiff in 1999 for their Millennium rehang, £5,000 to Mynyddislwyn in 2000 when the remaining five bells from Abercarn, with three new bells, were installed, and another £5,000 to Laleston in 2003 when the four existing bells were augmented to six. It is very pleasing that our grants are now able to form a significant proportion of the required total.

From the Centenary balance of £19k, the fund in 2006 now stands at just over £39k and during the years from 1993 to 2006 has given out over £32k. With such a healthy balance it has also proved possible to make interest-free loans, £5,000 having been lent to Mynyddislwyn on a short-term basis while their project was under way. This loan resulted after long discussions in 1993 when the AGM decided that the Rules of the Fund should be amended to allowed not only the giving of grants but also of loans. It has also been decided that restoration of non-ringing bells comes withi the Fund.

Sadly, Bill Harford died suddenly and untimely in 1984, but the value of the Fund and the good work which it has supported are a testimonial to his powerful influence and foresight in the 70s.

The past few decades have produced an entirely different approach to restoration work, whereby local voluntary labour, under skilled supervision, has enabled quite large jobs to be carried out at minimal expense. The Association is indeed lucky to have volunteers and professional engineers willing to give of their time to this work. The rehanging of the bells at St John's, Cardiff, under Trevor Lewis, in 1977 (?), the removal and despatch to Whitechapel of the old six at Llanishen and the installation of the new trebles at Llanarth in 1981 by the Abergavenny ringers are typical examples.

Old sixes have been recast at Llanishen (6 - 1977), Llantarnam (6 - 1973), and Llantilio Crossenny (8 - 1977/8). Whitchurch and Llanarth have been augmented to eight, and further restoration work carried out at Radyr, Monmouth, Aberdare, Caldicot and Magor and Llanblethian.

Later on, minor work was carried out at Bridgend, Abergavenny, Llangybi, Llantwit Major, Rumney and Pentre - all supported by the Bell Restoration Fund. More significant restoration schemes were completed at Llangynwyd, Bedwellty, Peterstone-super-Ely, Dyffryn, Machen, Redwick and Llanwern. These last two were after many decades of silence at both towers. The tenor at Magor was recast. St Woolos had a flat 6th added, and Dingestow bells were augmented to six. Merthyr Tydfil bells were restored by local labour, led by Andrew Giles. Regrettably his previous project at Llanbradach, and much effort in generating a local band, came to nought when the church was closed and the bells sold over the border to Kingstone in Herefordshire where they were installed in 1988. A similar event occurred at All Saints, Newport. The church was closed for worship in 1990, due to structural problems, and after several years of discussion it was decided in 1993 that it would be demolished, and a smaller modern church built on the site. In 1993 the bells were removed and put into store at Bassaleg. They were finally hung in the tower there in 1998, replacing the unusual-toned ring of six steel bells cast by Naylor Vickers in 1866.

Another interesting restoration was the welding of the 4th bell at Porthkerry which was found to be cracked. This was no surprise since its tone had been deteriorating for quite some time. All the work at the Porthkerry end was carried out by volunteer labour. (CHECK)

The most exciting restoration project in recent years was the complete replacement of the old ten at Llandaff Cathedral with a brand new twelve, plus a flat 6th. A courageous decision to proceed with this work was taken in 1988, culminating in the completion of the scheme at the end of 1992, just in time for the Centenary celebrations. In fact the Cathedral was very badly damaged by enemy action in WWII, although the bells were not destroyed, but they had to wait until restoration of the tower in 1953 before ringing could recommence. Since that time the Cathedral has built up and maintained an enthusiastic and competent band, whose crowning achievement is mentioned above.

During roughly the same period, the unusual ring of bells at Pen-y-fai was augmented from five to six. Previously consisting of a ring of six with the 4th bell missing, as a result of much local effort an extra bell has been added to make a complete ring of six.

The period around the Millennium saw a great deal of restoration activity with money being made available from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Shirenewton was the first Welsh tower to benefit from this and the restoration was completed in 1997. Restoration or rehanging work also took place at Tredunnock, Llanfrechfa, Mynyddislwyn, Trellech, Cardiff, St Hilary, Llancarfan, and Laleston.

Having money in the Fund has also enabled us to purchase the chime of six from Mountain Ash, whose tower had structural problems. These bells are currently in storage while attempts to find a new home for them are under way.

Ideas for fund-raising have been many, varied and largely successful. From 1984 - 92 Nevil James, whose pen drawings of the area’s churches have featured in many Annual Reports, produced a hand-drawn calender which proved very popular, selling out on more than one occasion. A later attempt in *** using photographs taken by John Vesey & Trevor Lewis and printed commercially could not be produced at an economic cost and unfortunately made a loss.

Following all the calls on the fund over the Millennium period, the next few years saw a number of fund-raising activities designed to redress the balance. One such, on New Years Day 2001, was a very successful sponsored 45-towers-in-a-day outing organised by Mike & Pip Penney which raised £400. A new Association mug was also produced in 2001 and an upsurge in Association sweatshirt orders raised a similar sum. The Association also followed a trend set by others by arranging an Open Ringing Day in 2003-5 CHECK YEARS, all of which raised several hundred pounds.

A "200 Club" was started in 1994 and has proved very successful, having in its first ten years contributed over £5000 to the BRF. Its administration, and the monthly draws at meetings and practices have been in the very capable hands of Hilary Brown, assisted by Catherine Hayman, until **** when it was taken over by Wendy Reilly, assisted by Jane Craddock. By the end of 2023, the 200 Club had raised a total of £27,750.00 for the BRF.

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