Aspire – Perspire – Expire – Our Spire

This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in May 2012.

The parish church of Holy Trinity, Belbroughton is a grade II* listed building greatly appreciated as a focal point in the village.

A church was recorded here in the Domesday survey of 1086, so it is probable that a church has stood on the site since early Saxon times.  Much of the present structure was built in the mid-14th century with the tower and spire added a little later.  Thus its walls reflect the history of the parish for the last 700 years and more.

Over the centuries successive generations have been called upon to give financial support for the upkeep of this precious building, especially, it seems, for the spire, as the following account from the Messenger August 4th 1972 illustrates!

In more recent years, the church’s spire has been swaying more than normal during bell-ringing.  Specialised examination pointed to the need for the restoration of the upper part of the spire, rebuilding the tower and rehanging the bells.  After examination bell-ringing ceased as a matter of safety and a restoration fund was founded to provide the estimated sum of £11,000 required for the project.

Will Ring Out

There is now justification in believing that the bells of Holy Trinity church will ring out in strength this Christmas.  The Rector, the Rev John V Twigg, said it had become necessary to renew an appeal made in 1970 to cover the cost involved.  He expressed delight at the great generosity of the village’s comparatively small population of about 1100, which had raised £8256.  “It’s been quite remarkable, even the old people have had rummage sales to help the cause. Although there have been small donations from people outside the village, the majority of the money had come from Belbroughton.

Interest

“It displays, I think, the entire village’s interest in the upkeep of the church.  We’ve had two walk-about collections round the village. One in October 1970 which raised £1305, and one in May 1972 which made £912.  The necessary work has been organised and of course that means borrowing.  When people see the restoration in progress and nearing completion the enthusiasm tends to dissipate, so we must generate even more support to pay off the £3122 that’s outstanding.”

The somewhat chequered history of the spire is put down to its light construction and the weight of the six bells it houses.  One of these, the tenor bell, was exceedingly heavy and is being recast into a treble bell to assist in reducing the “swing” on the spire.

Timber Frame

This latest project marks the sixth attempt to correct the spire’s swaying tendency, for there have been numerous restoration programmes over several centuries.  In 1535, 1777, 1850, 1895 and 1956 the spire caused concern.  Excessive sway was noticed and the rebuilding efforts were started.  In 1956, six layers of stone were carefully replaced half way up, but the problem remained unsolved.  Part of the present scheme includes the introduction of a new steel frame for the bells.  There were only four bells in the church in the 17th century, but in the late 18th century these were recast and two further bells were added.

Sixth Attempt

The two small bells were rehung in the lower part of the spire. By the middle 19tth century structural damage was caused by the swaying of the spire and during the 1894-95 restoration the bells were rehung from a timber frame situated at the top of the tower.  More than 30 years later the bells were quarter-tuned and hung from ball-bearings and the tower clock was constructed as a tribute to Queen Victoria’s diamond Jubilee.

The recent storm damage which affected the spire is a timely reminder of a continuing need to support our parish church.