Help for struggling Hartlepool bellringers

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A Hartlepool bell-ringing group has received a much-needed cash boost.

The Hartlepool Guild of Bellringers was facing difficulties in funding trainers to attend the courses necessary for advancing members’ skills.

The guild approached a local masonic lodge, Harte Lodge, to ask if they might be willing to make a donation towards its running costs.

The lodge agreed to donate £100 from its charity fund, and this was topped up with another £100 from the Hartlepool Masonic Benevolent Association.

The guild is flourishing – in 2010 there were only two bell- ringers in Hartlepool, but now the Hartlepool Guild of Bellringers has over 30 members, drawn from all ages and backgrounds.

They regularly ring the bells at three churches in the town – St. Oswald’s, St. Aidan’s and All Saint’s, Stranton – and on special occasions at Christ Church, which is now the town’s art gallery and tourist information 

They ring for church services, weddings and funerals, for local and national occasions and for their own enjoyment.

Guild secretary Andrew Frost is delighted that 13 of their members are under the age of 20, saying: “We encourage youngsters to learn to ring bells as it teaches them a skill, helps them to learn to interact with adults in a social environment, teaches them how to work within a team and can teach them leadership skills, confidence and concentration.

“Also, bell ringing is recognised as a community activity in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people.”

However, teaching people to ring, and children in particular, requires a skill which needs to be learnt properly.

The Hartlepool Guild has four people trained to teach the basics of bell handling, but, for trainers to become proficient in teaching more advanced change ringing they need to attend courses aimed at making them competent to train other ringers in these advanced activities.

Unfortunately, none of these courses is run locally and none of the existing Hartlepool teachers has yet been able to attend such a course because of the costs involved.

There are course fees to be met, as well as travel costs and the guild is totally self-funding.

In addition, guild members pay visits to ring the bells in other towers throughout the area and pay their own expenses to get there as a group.

The donations from Harte Lodge and Hartlepool Masonic Benevolent Association will allow the teachers to attend courses.

John Bartram, representing both masonic organisations, joined a bell ringing team in their snug Ringing Chamber, half way up the bell tower of St. Oswald’s Church, where the team was ringing for a wedding.

Amongst the team of 10 were Josh Blenkinsop (12), who joined the Guild two years ago, and Laura Jones (15), who is working towards an award under the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Scheme, both of whom took part in the ringing.

The team was led by Tower Captain Jack Hanlon (20) to whom John Bartram presented the cheque for £200 to help boost the guild’s funds.

John Bartram said: “I am delighted to be able to hand over this donation from the Freemasons of Hartlepool.

“Bell ringing is a skilful activity, and we should be grateful to the Guild for keeping it alive in our town.”