Ringers need help to get bells back in tune

St Mary de Haura Handbell Ringers holding a community participation event
St Mary de Haura Handbell Ringers holding a community participation event

VOLUNTEERS who bring joy to thousands are feeling a bit out of tune.

Shoreham’s St Mary de Haura Handbell Ringers have been entertaining people of all ages for nearly 40 years.

But now their instruments need restoration and they are looking to various sources to find the funds.

Group chairman Eunice Kenward, the longest-serving member, explained: “Time has gone by and many years of ringing have taken their toll on the bells, which now need extensive restoration.

“We have had them assessed by the bell foundry and it is going to cost us £2,000 to carry our the necessary refurbishment and tuning to ensure that all the bells across the two sets are properly in tune to ring with each other.

“This will enable us to continue to bring the joy of handbell ringing to our community.”

The handbells belong to St Mary de Haura Church in Shoreham and the Friends of St Mary’s have already agreed to give a small grant.

Skipton Building Society’s Grassroots Giving Fund has also shortlisted the group for a £500 grant.

The handbell ringers are one of 304 groups nationwide up for a total of 161 grants, which will be decided by public votes cast via www.skiptongrg.co.uk.

Mrs Kenward said: “Our small number of members means we need to ask our friends and their friends please to support our bid for this grant.”

Voting is open until October 15 and people can vote once per email address.

The group hopes people who have enjoyed their music will also help by making a donation in cash or by cheque payable to St Mary de Haura Handbell Ringers, which can be sent or delivered by hand to The Treasurer, St Mary de Haura Handbell Ringers, The Church Office, 1 New Road, Shoreham.

The main set of handbells was discovered up in the ringing chamber of the church tower and brought into use when the team was founded in July 1977 by Jim Lilley.

Although he has now retired from ringing, Mr Lilley is still the group’s president and he is also know as a member, and the former tower captain, of the St Mary de Haura Church Tower Bell Ringers.

The handbell group has the use of a second set of bells, which enables them to invite people in the audience to have a go and ring.

Mrs Kenward said: “We are currently a group of ten volunteers who ring together each week, and throughout the year take our bells out into the community to ring.

“Most frequently, we ring for care homes and nursing homes in and around Shoreham and Southwick, though we have rung from Worthing to Hove and as far as Chichester and Guildford Cathedrals, Ford Prison Chapel and Sussex University, as well as for the Shoreham Town Carol Service, a Lions’ Christmas tea for the elderly in Southwick, and regularly for the Adur Festival.

“We also ring for church groups and young people’s groups, such as the Guides.

“People may have seen and heard us ringing in Shoreham at Christmas or at Shoreham Farmers’ Market and also at this year’s Undercurrent Festival in Shoreham.”

The tuned bells can be rung by hand, usually with one, sometimes two, one in each hand, to make music together as a team.