SAVED BY THE BELL: Charitable trust lends a hand to Burbage bell ringers

Pictured, from left: Margaret Swain, Barbara Swinglehurst, Lynn Kirkham, Judy Vale, Roy Pickles, Mary McDonald and John Swain. The team also includes Lesley Swain.
Pictured, from left: Margaret Swain, Barbara Swinglehurst, Lynn Kirkham, Judy Vale, Roy Pickles, Mary McDonald and John Swain. The team also includes Lesley Swain.

A century-old Buxton tradition has been saved by the bell – or at least a repair to one…

Burbage Handbell Ringing team needed hundreds of pounds to pay for repairs to one of their 32 bells, which can only be mended by the UK’s last specialist foundry.

“It was like having a piano with a key missing,” said the team’s Judy Vale.

But with no income of their own, they sent out an appeal to Roy Pickles, of elderly person’s charity The Hall Bank Trust.

Roy was able to step in with a cheque for £250 because most of the hand-bell ringers’ audiences are older people, and now the restored bell in back in action.

“We play to lots and lots of elderly groups, care homes and pensioners’ luncheon clubs,” said Judy, who said the bells were expensive to keep up because when one is re-tuned, they all have to be.

“There’s only one factory in the country, Taylors in Loughborough, which can do it. It nearly closed two years ago and had a buy-out from the employees. I don’t know what any hand-bell group would have done without them - it’s such an English tradition.”

Some hand-bell teams use modern bells, but they have a different tone to the bells which have delighted so many audiences in the Peak District over the years at recitals by the Burbage team.

“There have been bell-ringers in Burbage for 100 years and that tradition has been handed down,” said Judy.

“We’ve been to many hand-bell rallies but I don’t know of an older set of bells. I’ve always thought they were important, but I think the fact that they are unique is quite amazing.”

Roy is vice-chairman of the Hall Bank Trust which was set up to use the income from money realised by the sale of an older person’s centre to help the elderly of the area.

“It’s an English tradition and they don’t get any funds to keep it going,” said Roy. “Most of their audiences are elderly people.”

To contact Burbage Handbell Team, ring Judy on 01298 70077.