Restoration of the bells in the church of St Mary, St Peter & St Paul, Westbury-on Severn, Gloucestershire, England.

The People's Millions.

The People's Millions is a grants programme run by the Big Lottery Fund, partnership with ITV. The bell ringers of Westbury-on-Severn Church of St. Mary, St. Peter & St. Paul submitted an application in 2011 asking for help to preserve and maintain bell ringing in their unusual detached tower. They succeeded, with the provision that on completion, the tower be made available to the public and schools for educational purposes. The bells are to be taken out, new headstocks and bearings fitted and re-hung. There will then be tests done to determine whether frame movement is still within required tolerances, and to determine whether further work is necessary. The traditional art of bell ringing is to be maintained at the Westbury-on-Severn church.

The bell tower of the church of St Mary, St Peter & St Paul is unusual, in that it is detached from the present church, having once been part of the13th century chapel of St Mary, which lay just north of the present church. The tower had a 49-meter high spire added in the 14th century made entirely from locally sourced oak, and covered with oak shingles. During the English Civil War, the Parliamentarians occupied the tower and defeated the Royalists who were occupying the church. It houses the heaviest peal of bells in Gloucestershire, which were famous for ringing out their peal and quarter peals to be heard across the Severn Estuary. Four of the peal of six are maiden Abraham Rudhall bells, cast at the famous Rudhall's foundry, Gloucester in 1711, The heaviest bell of the peal being the tenor at nearly 22 cwt. The bells were rung regularly up until around 2002 when it was thought that structural safety should be checked. A last ring in 2005 was monitored closely, and it was found that there was some bell chamber structural movement and instability, with one bell making contact with its frame and housing. It was deemed too dangerous to continue ringing, especially in the grade 1 listed tower.

The photographs show the bells being dismantled and removed by a team of local bell ringers, supervised by Bell Hanger representatives from Whites of Appleton. The bells are then taken to Whites in Oxfordshire, to be restored. They later spent a short time at Whitechapel Foundry in London having their tunings checked before returning to Westbury to be reinstalled by the same team. They are taken back up the church path to the tower, and hoisted up to their bell chamber then refitted and tested. The bell ringer team involved in their dismantling and reassembly is supervised by Whites of Appleton Church Bell Hangers representatives, Graham Clifton and James Heseldine.

The bells, having been successfully returned to the tower in full working order, and rededicated by the Bishop of Tewkesbury, and having passed all tests, were ready to take part in the National Bell Ringing Celebration for the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. Two quarter peals took place on Sunday and Monday 3rd. and 4th. June 2012.