Shropshire Star

The chimes they are a-changing with new bells at Shropshire church

The chimes they are a-changing at a south Shropshire church which is celebrating the installation of no fewer than eight new bells.

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St Milburga's has had eight new bells installed. Picture: Ashley Smith

The first peal of the bells at St Milburga's Church, in Stoke Saint Milborough, near Ludlow, was made on Monday morning, with a bishop due to bless them later this week as part of a five-day festival.

Ashley Smith is known as a 'steeple keeper' among the regular bellringers at the church, which sits in the village set in the south Shropshire countryside.

He's the one with a head for heights, and doesn't mind climbing up a ladder if needed to make sure the bells remain in tip top condition.

Mr Smith said: "They are the first eight Italian bells to be installed in the country. Although whether they are Italian or British can be debated - they were designed in Somerset by Matthew Higby."

St Milburga's has had eight new bells installed. Picture: Ashley Smith

The bells were created by the Allanconi foundry and were ready in 2018-19 but could not be delivered during the pandemic.

The tiny community, with a population of 409 in the 2011 Census, is still fundraising towards its £80,000 target.

Mr Smith said the church also functions as a teaching centre within the Church Stretton district and there are plans to develop this. Some of the bellringers have been moving with the chimes for more than 50 years.

Residents need not be afraid of the sounds of novice bellringers disrupting their lives however as they will be using high technology.

With the bells tied, the sounds of the bells are simulated via sensors and the sound therefore does not travel outside the church.

St Milburga's has had eight new bells installed. Picture: Ashley Smith

Learners can practise for as long as they wish without disturbing anyone outside. There is even a Bluetooth headset which enables the ringer to practise in total privacy, leaving the rest of the ringing room in silence.

Anybody wishing to experience ringing on the simulator, whether a total beginner or a more advanced ringer, should get in touch.

The St Milburga's Bell Festival started on Saturday and runs to Wednesday, including a taster day on Tuesday.

Bishop of Hereford Richard Jackson is set to lead a celebration festival service for the bells with from 6.30pm on Wednesday.

Throughout the festival in the church there will be an exhibition on display of calligraphy by Sheelagh Lewis.

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