Work is continuing on the next phase of the Eastnor Church renovation scheme. The erection of new toilet facilities accessible from the North Door was a key element of the second phase. The archaeological survey of the northern area was completed at the end of March and the wooden outline of the new extension can now be seen.
On Monday 14 March 2022, the bells were returned to Eastnor Church. The Reverend Joan Wakeling was there to bless the bells on their return. Over the following two days, new bell wheels were fitted by Alan Bagworth and the Revd Barney Bell. The original tenor bell will go into the Belfry and may be used as part of the clock strike.
Work has also started on the next phase of the renovation with an archaeological excavation of the area by the North Door where a new WC will be built. Archaeologist Elizabeth Connelly was hard at work in the spring sunshine.
Six members of the bell ringing team led by Alan Bagworth went to John Taylor’s in Loughborough on Thursday 24 February to see the new Eastnor Tenor Bell being cast.
The mould for the bell is buried in sand for safety reasons and the molten metal is poured in through a 1″ hole! The team are hoping that the bells will be back for Easter.
Eastnor Church has a peal of 6 bells, the oldest bell dating back to 1689. However, the tenor bell has not been rung for two years as the headgear had failed. As part of the larger Tower Renovation project, it was agreed that all the bells should be removed for refurbishment this year.
In April 2021, a team of bell ringers and other helpers were assembled to firstly remove the wheels and clappers from the bells before the bells were lowered 70ft to the ground from the Tower. Whites of Appleton, a company specialising in bell repairs, were on hand to supervise the removal of the bells from the tower and their onward transfer to the Whites workshop where they will be retuned and refitted.
The bells were last lowered to the ground in 1926 and their refurbishment is well overdue. A seventh bell known as the Sanctus bell will also be refitted.
An excellent video made by Tim Keyes shows the process of the bells being lowered and then moved to the churchyard where children from Eastnor School were able to look at them. Alan Bagworth, the Ringing Master was on hand to answer questions about the bells and the renovation project.
The scaffolding around the tower came down at the beginning of September. The stonemasons led by Ian Bishop under the supervision of our architect, John Middleton have now completed the external work to the tower. The clock face has been refurbished and the weather vane is now gleaming in the sunshine with a new layer of gold leaf.
Ian Stainburn, retired architect and advisor to the tower renovation committee, made the following remarks on completion, “I was able to pay them the ultimate compliment, I cannot see what you have done! The work has been well conceived and undertaken”.
An application for approval for a new servery and toilet facilities has now been made to the diocesan committee for church buildings with the work scheduled to begin in 2021.
Work on the tower has gone well this summer. The stonemasons, led by Ian Bishop and overseen by John Middleton, our architect, have applied a new lime mortar, with a mix chosen after several trials, to many of the joints of the stonework, and work has also started on creating a new lead base for the weather vane. The weather vane itself has been re-gilded and should look splendid when back in position.
Phillipa Fawcett has also been hard at work restoring the clock face, applying gold leaf between gusts of wind.
The Tower Restoration Committee is pleased with the progress made so far and appreciates the high quality of the work being carried out.
Work started in mid-June on the renovation of the tower and is expected to take around 3 months to complete. The cement-based mortar has been raked out from the tower and the stonework will now be repointed with a suitable lime mortar. Some of the stones will also need to be repaired. The roof timbers have been inspected and some minor repairs may be necessary.
The weathervane has also been inspected and may have to be removed whilst the base is repaired. The clock will also be refurbished and the zinc weathering renewed.
Care is being taken not to disturb any nesting birds but so far only empty nests have been found.
The work is being carried out by Ian Bishop Stone Masonry under the supervision of Nick Joyce Architects Ltd.
The Eastnor Church Tower Appeal Committee is delighted to announce that it has secured support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund following an application made at the end of 2019.
The £100,000 grant will go towards the restoration of the tower and bell ring and support the addition of a servery and WC once formal Planning Permission is given. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project will not only help preserve the fabric of the 13th century tower and allow the bells to ring again, but also mean that the church can be used for a wider range of village and county functions, giving improved access and interpretation to visitors and better facilities for the congregation, wedding guests and the village school, who use it regularly for assemblies. A short video will introduce the history of the church and its monuments, with further information and images available via a new website. There will also be a discovery trail for children and a printed guidebook for older visitors.
Eastnor Church is Grade 1 Listed and on the Heritage at Risk Register. It is an important landmark in the Eastnor Conservation Area and attracts many visitors from overseas. It is popular with wedding couples holding their receptions at Eastnor Castle.
The Revd Keith Hilton-Turvey, Rector of Ledbury & Eastnor, said: “We are delighted with the generosity of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Repairs to the ancient tower are long overdue, and I welcome the plans to improve other facilities in the church in the way that other churches have in our area”.
James Hervey-Bathurst, Chairman of the Appeal committee said: “Wonderful news! It is very exciting that our hard work has been rewarded by this grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund We still need to raise more, but the this grant is a very good endorsement for our project, and we are confident we can reach our target. We have had a lot of support from local people and charities too”
Work is due to start in June under the supervision of John Middleton of Nick Joyce Architects, Worcester. A local specialist contractor has been appointed, and the building team will include a young apprentice.