Monday, 14 November 2011
A peal appeal
The November edition of Saltaire's village magazine, Saltaire Sentinel, carries an appeal for new bell-ringers to join the team at the historic Saltaire United Reformed Church. Ringing practice is on Monday evenings at 7pm and those interested are invited to come to the tower on a practice night to see what the role involves.
Saltaire's Congregational Church (now the URC) was opened in 1859 but it was not until 1870 that bells were hung in the tower, in accordance with Sir Titus Salt's original intentions. Made in Birmingham at a cost of £300, there were six bells, hung so as to enable traditional English Change Ringing. (The world of bell-ringing is wonderfully historic and full of arcane terminology. I tried it myself when I was at university, just out of interest. I had a great uncle who was a bell-ringer at Newark Parish Church so maybe it's in my blood.) Bells are very rare in non-conformist churches but they were happily accepted by Saltaire's residents.
It is believed that the original bells were rung for the last time in 1918, for the signing of the Armistice at the end of the 1st World War. By then they had realised that the tower was not strong enough to support the stress involved in ringing. The bells were later scrapped, for a value of £85.
Jonathan Silver, the entrepreneur who rescued Saltaire in the 1980s, sadly died in 1997. His widow, Maggie, chose to provide a new set of bells for the church as a memorial to Jonathan. The tower was strengthened and bells cast in Holland, this time costing £30,000, were installed in 2003. They were rung for the first time in September 2003 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Sir Titus Salt's birth and the 150th anniversary of the opening of Salts Mill. Again the village has almost universally welcomed them (though wooden baffles were added in the tower to make life easier for the residents of Albert Terrace whose homes directly face the church). I love to hear them ringing to call people to church on Sunday mornings and for weddings and special occasions.
(Information largely gathered from Saltaire URC's own guide book.)