Quarley Bell Tower Exhibition - Sunday 9th March 2008
Quite an encouraging number of visitors, not all from the parish, attended the exhibition on 9th March and some useful comments were made in the Visitors' Book. Our purpose here is to take up some of the points made and try to provide answers. Anyone is of course welcome to discuss their particular concerns with one of the Churchwardens, who have, in conjunction with the PCC, the responsibility for the project.
1. Finance. Some people were worried about the finance, and with good cause: a village with a population of 149 cannot hope to raise all the money required, unaided by outside agencies. This is why we shall be approaching grantmakers outside the parish for the majority of the money, and if we are unsuccessful, the bigger scheme will have to be abandoned and we shall replace the bells where they were. However, whether we build a bell tower and space or simply reinstall the bells approximately where they were, there will be further calls on the generosity of the parishioners, as the church's own funds will not stretch to all the security measures that will be needed.
2. Need. Apart from meetings and exhibitions, over one thousand people attended the church in 2007. It might well have been more had the church had proper toilet facilities, and proper provision of space for the children of parents wishing to attend services. At present, the Sunday School is held in the village hall and then the children have to be walked up to the church towards the end of the service. This constitutes a health and safety hazard. What would happen if one of them was knocked down, or slipped on an icy road? It is true that the Village Hall has the facilities that we wish to install as part of the scheme, but we think it doubtful that people attending services would want the bother of going down there to use them. Moreover the Hall would not necessarily be open.
3. Tradition. Quarley is almost unique in having its bells on the ground since the end of the nineteenth century. Even if you could not swing them, it was nice to be able to see and touch them - and on occasion hear them being tolled by passing visitors! However, that was not their purpose in life when they were purchased. The new scheme provides for them to be visible, safe, and properly hung so they can be swung. People will be able to learn to ring them properly, and there will be space for a fourth bell should someone be feeling generous (prices on application!)
4. Design. When we asked architectural students at the University of the West of England to design a bell-tower, we did not intend to build any of their designs: but we hoped to get ideas which would clarify our own thoughts, and in this we abundantly succeeded. Our Diocesan architect took an active part in the competition and the resulting sketch seems generally quite well received.
5. Further Consultation. One or two people requested further consultation, and this will take place as the project proceeds: it is a Parish project, and we want people to "own" it, whether they are regular churchgoers or not. However, at this time, everyone knows all that is known: the probable cost (£200,000); the cost of caging the bells on the ground and making a ha-ha all round (anything up to £45,000); and the reasons for the more ambitious scheme, which has now been agreed by the PCC. Incidentally, none of these reasons has been refuted by the comments in the book. The next stage will be to proceed to obtain planning permission, followed byan appeal for funds. For these two stages we shall need to have widespread support - moral ifnot financial- from people in the Parish. Fortunately, our visitors seemed to be mostly in favour.
The passing centuries have left their mark on the structure and we believe that this is an opportunity for us to make our contribution to this living church.
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