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Shropshire church's bells go electric - with video

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Worshippers at an historic countryside church celebrated Easter with the pealing of the first bells in the region to be fitted with an electronic ringer.

The project at St Cuthbert's Church in Donington, near Albrighton, was completed as part of a major £75,000 revamp of the premises to cater for changing times in the community it serves.

The three old bells are still hanging in the tower at the site, but they are now being rung with the help of a computerised mechanism that is operated with the press of a button instead of a team of ringers.

It is the first in the Lichfield diocese which covers parts of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Black Country to have the device which will make it easier for ageing members to peal the bells.

The interior of the worship centre has been given a facelift with some of the pews removed to create room for community activities and 40 chairs brought in to cater for social events. There is seating for 130 people in total.

Senior church warden John Purchase sets the controls

John Yates, on behalf of the church wardens, said: "As part of a re-ordering programme for St Cuthbert's, the north aisle has been opened up to make a very welcoming fellowship area. There is a new kitchen serving refreshments, the toilets have been upgraded to meet the needs of disabled members and there are now additional visitor toilets.

"Church wardens Len Warilow, John Purchase and the parochial church council (PCC) had a desire to celebrate the completion of this project by momentously ringing the bells. Due to implications with health and safety risks, the cost of insurance unfortunately prohibited the event. Consequently, it has been suggested by the church wardens, the PCC and supported by the vicar that an alternative means of bell ringing should be explored.

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St Cuthbert's Church in Donington

"As a result, the three bells of St Cuthbert's will be pealed again by a modern device involving solenoid hammers and an electrical panel operating system, controlled by a computer. The provisional estimate for implementing this innovative bell ringing system was £5,000. To get financial support for such a system the PCC invited donors to contribute to the work. A single member of the congregation, as a token of significant gratitude to the church, made a very generous gift and the contract was able to proceed."

"St Cuthbert's has always been a welcoming and friendly Church, the bells will give an added sense of being uplifted when leaving the Church. We hope that people come and experience it for themselves, leaving with a large smile to share with others."

The new bell system was officially unveiled at the Easter Sunday service at the church in Rectory Road to the delight of the congregation. The wardens add that the bell ropes can still be used.

The small church has been serving the farming and village community since it was built in 1085 and is now led by the area priest the Rev Mary Wade whom also looks after Albrighton and Cosford.

Funding for the improvements came from the sale of the former church hall next door which is now a care home training centre.

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