16th September 2015

Redundant Bells

Terms of Reference

To consider and advise on all matters concerning churches affected by redundancy: having where necessary the power to act on behalf of the Council.

To develop and maintain contact with the statutory bodies charged with dealing with redundant churches, providing advice as necessary, and producing periodic reviews of the situation concerning bells in churches affected by redundancy, in order to promote an awareness of the problem among ringers generally.

This Committee has a principal role of monitoring the developments within the Church of England and other churches concerning the fate of redundant bells in churches. It does this by a close working relationship with the Church Commissioners, the Church Buildings Council and the Churches Conservation Trust.  This encourages a regular flow of information to the Committee on behalf of the Exercise to enable the Committee to ensure that bells in redundant churches are dealt with appropriately.  The Committee also administers the Council’s Rescue Fund. This Fund is intended to raise loans from ringers when money is required for the purpose of urgently acquiring bells to prevent their being lost from churches being demolished or closed.  The Committee works closely with the Keltek Trust by sharing information, by referring cases and by pooling financial resources in cases of funding rescues.

Committee membership

Robert Wood
01765 278769
The Chairman will answer an enquiry himself or direct it to a member of the committee with local or relevant knowledge.

Robert Cooles (Additional Member)
Tim Jackson (Ex-officio Member)
Julian Newman (Salisbury Diocesan Guild)
Helen Webb (Ladies' Guild) Rescue Fund Treasurer
David Westerman (Peterborough Diocesan Guild)
Robert Wood (University of Bristol Society) Chairman


Scope of Operation

As with all Central Council committees, the Committee for Redundant Bells (CfRB) carries a responsibility to serve the ringing Exercise world-wide. It is actively seeking to develop its understanding of the impacts of church redundancy wherever the Exercise exists, and to enhance its support for ringers and ringing societies in all these places.

However the geographical and denominational distribution of rings of bells, and the scale of the impact of church redundancy on bells, and ringers, has resulted in an inevitably strong focus of the committee’s work towards the Church of England. What follows therefore pertains primarily to the situation and experiences of the Committee in working with C of E-related bodies, English churches and their bells.

Church Redundancy with the Church of England – background

In 1968 a Pastoral Measure was promulgated to “tidy up” the Church of England, which, particularly in the aftermath of the Second World War, had too few clergymen, and too many churches, in either the wrong place, or in the wrong sort of repair.

The Pastoral Measure came into force in April 1969, and was revised in 1983. A significant volume, the Code of Practice, accompanies it. This manages and controls the practicalities of moving towards and implementing redundancy.

The 1969 Pastoral Measure superseded a process for “shedding” churches that had previously been long drawn out and cumbersome. It is undeniable that something of the sort was needed. Prima facie it has worked reasonably well dealing at first with a flood of churches surplus to requirements. Over recent years the numbers of new churches involved annually has settled to a steady stream. According to all official prognoses this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Up to the end of 2002, 1671 Church of England churches have been declared redundant under the Pastoral Measure. The Church Commissioners have indicated that their expectation is that around 25-30 further churches will be added to this total annually, notwithstanding that the numbers for 2000 and 2001 were rather lower.

Until recently redundancy has been biased towards urban churches and the rationalisation of urban parishes. There is evidence that a shift towards consideration of greater numbers of rural parishes / churches is emerging. This is in turn likely to involve a higher proportion of ancient foundations containing both historical bells and potentially larger bell installations.

Once a church has been declared redundant one of three outcomes is possible. By far the largest percentages of redundant church buildings (some 56%) are found alternative uses. These range from conversion to dwellings to use as restaurants or places of entertainment, public halls, offices, or sports complexes.

Some 23% of redundant churches are demolished and the site generally reused, while about 21% (usually those with the most significant heritage) are vested in the Churches Conservation Trust, which maintains their fabric and ensures that they retain their Ecclesiastical character. Occasional worship is usually permitted, and continued use of rings of bells is often available to local societies.

History of the Committee

Soon after the Pastoral Measure came into force it became apparent that it would have significant implications for bells and bell ringers. As a result the Administrative Committee of the Central Council set up a sub-committee in the autumn of 1972 to consider what should be done in consequence. Dennis Beresford led this sub-committee and it included Fred Sharpe, Dick Speed and Brian Threlfall. It held an open meeting at the 1973 Central Council meeting attended by about 250 people, and formally presented recommendations to the Council, which were accepted.

The infant CfRB took on five major areas of work, all of which either apply or have topicality today:

  1. To establish and promote the views and interests of ringers and proper concern for bells among relevant official bodies through establishing and maintaining contacts with appropriate Church authorities at a national (and if relevant local) level.The strategy developed was for the Committee to become the principal point of contact with national bodies, while territorial ringing societies were encouraged to form links to local ones. The vertical communication between the Committee and local societies and between local and national church authorities should facilitate a full circle of communication.
  2. To promote the effective re-use of otherwise redundant bell castings; lists of “available” and “wanted” bells were seen as an obvious development.One of the Committee’s guiding principles from the outset has been the need to save and not waste the value in almost every bell. This has been supported by both the policy of the Committee and the requirement of the Code of Practice associated with the Pastoral Measure. Both require that fittings from redundant churches should stay within their local area if at all possible. The recent advent of the Keltek Trust and the work of David Kelly have placed the day to day management and re-use of bell castings on a much broader and more comprehensive footing. A development endorsed by CfRB.
  3. To consider the safe storage of redundant bells and their fittings in order to facilitate re-use where time is a critical factor.A facility was established and remains available though it has seldom been called upon.
  4. To consider the possible need for the Central Council to acquire bells that might otherwise be at risk, and to provide a source of funding if required.This was eventually brought to fruition through the inauguration of the Central Council’s Rescue Fund for Redundant Bells in 1979. This operates through the provision of offers of interest free loans from supportive individuals and groups. which can be “called in” when the need arises, and repaid once the bells are eventually disposed of for re-use.
  5. To consider the longer term development of an inventory of all bells, to support the assessment and management of the impact of redundancy and be of general benefit to those involved in the wider recording and management of Bells and their fittings.This aspect, a major undertaking from any perspective, has more recently returned to the agenda through exploratory work for a National Bells Register.

Present day role of the Committee

Today the Committee focuses principally on maintaining contact with and influencing of national authorities; on gathering information to monitor the “redundancy environment”; on providing early warning of emerging trends and issues to the Council, and with the provision of advice to ringers and parishes.

The Committee has regular dialogue with all of the central bodies involved with redundancy procedures within the Church of England : – viz.: The Church Commissioners, The Council for the Care of Churches, The Advisory Board for Redundant Churches and The Churches Conservation Trust (formerly and more descriptively known as The Redundant Churches Fund). Indeed an early and major step forward for the Committee was when, as a consequence of someone providing the Church Commissioners with misleading information, they decided that they would deal with matters concerning bells in redundant churches through the CfRB.

The CfRB receives advice from the Council for the Care of Churches as to the merits of churches that are at an early stage of being considered for possible redundancy. Confidential lists of the churches referred to them are helpfully provided to CfRB on a regular basis. However inclusion on such a list does not imply that a church will progress to redundancy. Often parishes in a wide geographic locality may be considered as part of evaluating longer term pastoral needs. As these lists are confidential, since often the Parishes themselves are unaware of these early stages of process, the CfRB is limited in the information it can disseminate to local ringing societies. However they do enable the Committee to identify “locations of potential significance” and maintain a close watch on progress so that appropriate action and influence may be swiftly brought to bear once there is wider awareness of a particular redundancy.

The CfRB also acts as a focus for advice to ringers, local societies and parishes on dealing with “bells aspects” of redundancy. In this regard the evolution of the lists of “available” and “wanted” bells into the formal “brokerage” process offered by the Keltek Trust has made a significant contribution. Under the guidance of David Kelly (a former member of the Committee), the Trust has ensured that there is now a well defined and highly effective mechanism through which redundant (and surplus) bells can be recycled, whenever possible “as cast”. Keltek enjoys the helpful support of the Bell Trade and a majority of Diocesan Furnishings officers, and as it is an independent charity it has a much freer hand to operate than CfRB. Their work well complements the information held by the Committee.

Where redundant churches retain their bells, (particularly where alternative uses are found for the building), there is significant potential for the bells to become “out of sight, out of mind”. Hence in 2002, CfRB embarked upon an audit of bells remaining in redundant churches to establish the current situation, and to guide any changes in policy that may be required.

The benefits of a national inventory of bells as a valuable tool to support the work of the CfRB were identified in its early days. However the perceived magnitude of the task militated against meaningful activity on this until the build-up to the Millennium Commission Funded Ringing In the Millennium during 1999. The idea was again placed on the national agenda and subsequently CfRB nurtured exploratory and prototyping work for a National Bell Register through work undertaken by John Baldwin. John, a long standing member of the committee, progressed the work alongside his role as DoveMaster sustaining the on-line version of Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers (q.v). Early work has confirmed that the creation of a national register, even at the level of a framework for other disparate and more complex datasets, would be a major and costly undertaking both from a financial and a labour perspective. Following a detailed report on the prototyping work by John to the Council Meeting in 2003 held in Llandudno, the Council decided that the challenge was too great and too costly, and formally stopped the work.

Finally, CfRB members act as the management committee for the Rescue Fund for Redundant Bells, ensuring that it can be deployed efficiently and effectively to meet urgent needs when required.

Understanding the redundancy process

The process involved in making a Church of England church redundant under the Pastoral Measure as amended in 1983 has 6 main stages:

  1. The Diocesan Pastoral Committee review the Ministry, Parochial, Pastoral and “Plant” (church buildings) needs of an area: a Deanery, part of a Deanery, Benefice or group of Benefices; and if appropriate advise the Diocesan Bishop of a case for Pastoral reorganisation.
  2. The Diocesan Bishop considers the Pastoral Committee’s advice and if approved submits a Proposal for Pastoral Reorganisation to the Church Commissioners
  3. The Church Commissioners consult on the Proposal with interested parties and if it is supported, issue a Pastoral Scheme providing for reorganisation, and sometimes including the Declaration of Redundancy of a church.
  4. Following the Declaration, the church ceases to be a place of public worship, and passes for a minimum of six months into the Waiting Period, during which its contents are vested in the Diocesan Board of Finance while a new use for the building is sought.
  5. The Diocesan Furnishings Officer may manage the removal for reuse elsewhere of some or all of the contents. (At this stage there is an opportunity for consideration of the possibility of removing the bell(s) and fittings for reuse elsewhere).
  6. When a decision on the building’s future has been reached, it is formalised in a Redundancy Scheme that provides for Demolition, Alternative Use, or Preservation by the Churches Conservation Trust. If there is agreement that the bell(s) may be removed, it may occur at this stage if not before.

Central Council Redundant Bells Policy Document


In an age of declining church attendance, churches are being declared redundant and, on occasions, secular buildings (including former churches) with bells may also no longer be required for their most recent use.

The Council considers that it should take a position on what happens to bells in buildings which become redundant or which change use in order that, where appropriate, bells or rings of bells may be saved and re­used.


This document refers to buildings no longer required for their original purposes, whatever that may have been, and to buildings which have previously changed use but are no longer required for that subsequent use.

For the purposes of this document, a ring of bells is any set of 3 or more bells tuned to a scale.

“Historic” includes, but is not confined to, old bells, listed bells, bells cast by rare founders, bells cast for special reasons, e.g. war memorial bells, bells associated with historic ringing achievements, bells of particularly high quality casting, bells with special inscription.


In the matter of redundant bells, the Council’s objectives are:

  1. To save good quality bells and rings of bells in order that they may continue to be rung;
  2. Where bells and bell­frames are of historic or other interest, to save them as historic artefacts for the nation.


As resources, both human and financial, are limited, it is necessary to prioritise what bells should be targeted for saving. The Council’s stated priorities are:

  1. To save complete rings of bells with greater priority being given to rings of higher numbers of bells;
  2. To save individual bells of particularly good quality, by rare bellfounders or of other particular interest;
  3. To save bells, bell­frames and fittings of particular historic or other interest.


In order to implement this Policy, the Council has set up a Committee for Redundant Bells whose Terms of Reference should reflect this Policy.

The Committee shall develop appropriate strategies to meet the objectives and reflect the priorities. In particular, the Committee shall:

  1. Establish and maintain good communications and relationships with relevant Church and other bodies at a national and, if appropriate, local level in order to reflect and promote ringers’ interests and concerns;
  2. Obtain details, from all available sources, of buildings with bells which are to be made redundant or are subject to change of use or ownership and where there is a risk of the bells no longer being available for ringing;
  3. Provide advice and information to local ringing associations and other bodies with an interest in the bells at risk;
  4. Maintain and manage the Bells Rescue Fund on behalf of the Council;
  5. Promote the interests of ringers and access for ringing when any ring of bells is at risk of destruction or being put out of use;
  6. Where possible, retain rings of bells in their original buildings and available for ringing. Where this is impossible, consider relocation of bells, including frames and fittings, as appropriate;
  7. Seek to support the English bell founding industry by encouraging augmentation and recasting as appropriate in the context of relocation.

Robert Wood Chairman ­- Committee for Redundant Bells

April 2016

Seeking advice from the Committee

The Committee can provide advice on the Redundancy process and on best practice principles in the field. The Committee is also the first point of contact for those seeking to mobilise the resources of the Rescue Fund for Redundant Bells (q.v.) in circumstances where urgent action and funding may be required to secure for reuse a bell or bells that may be at risk of other disposal.

Enquiries should be directed to the Committee Chairman in the first instance.

Publications and links on related topics

General details of the Ministry and organisation of the Church of England

More specific information on the work and remit of the Church Commissioners

For information on the role of the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches and the work of conserving historic churches

To learn more of the work of the Churches Conservation Trust and for information on Redundant Churches vested in the Trust

For information on the work of The Council for the Care of Churches dealing with active churches, but whose guidance and best practice may well apply in given circumstances to Redundant Churches)

Extended information on Redundant Churches within the Church Commissioners’ pages of the Church of England website

The Keltek Trust – specialising in the acquisition and disposal of redundant and surplus bells

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