2016 Heritage Open Day Press Release

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The bellringers of St Michael’s Church Betchworth are taking up the challenge from the organisers of Heritage Open Days to share the heritage hidden inside bell towers – and their passion for bellringing.

As part of the Heritage Open Days event (8‑11 September), the tower of St Michael’s Church will be open from 10.00 to 17.00 on the Saturday.  Visitors will be able to go right up to the roof (weather permitting, of course) through the ringing chamber and the bell chamber to admire the view across the village to the North Downs.

On the Sunday afternoon there will be regular bellringing demonstrations in the ringing chamber, with the opportunity for visitors to try ringing a bell – although the bells are heavy, you don’t have to be big and strong to ring them: anyone can learn to be a bellringer provided they are over 12 years old and can count up to eight.

Access to the ringing chamber is via a stone spiral staircase with rather low headroom – so mind your head!  Then there’s a fixed stepladder to the bell chamber, where there’s just room to stand round the bell frame with its eight bells.  Put your fingers in your ears as a bellringer turns over the tenor bell in the centre of the frame.  From the bell chamber there’s a short fixed ladder to the hatchway onto the flat roof ­– an opportunity to look down on your friends!

Because of the limited space in the tower, visitor numbers are limited to twenty at any time.  Children under 12 must be accompanied by a responsible adult, and must be over 1.2 m (4 ft) tall to climb the ladders.  And all visitors should wear appropriate clothing and shoes if they want to visit the bell chamber and roof – trailing scarves or loose sandals could be dangerous on ladders.

In the church there will be a small exhibition about the bells and their history, together with details about the church in medieval times. You can see this in the church on all four Heritage Open Days (Thursday to Sunday).  And on Saturday and Sunday there will be refreshments available.

Visitors will also be able to admire the Grade I listed church building with its Norman arches, stained glass, brass memorials, and hatchments – and a newly installed work of art: a glass screen “Wings of Faith” by Mel Howse.  Information leaflets, walks around the village, and history guides are available.

The Rector of Betchworth and Buckland, Canon Carol Coslett, said: “Bellringing performs an important service to the Church, spreading the message of worship out from the Church building to the whole parish.  I hope visitors will come to learn about this ancient art and to admire the beautiful building that has been the centre of our community for over a thousand years”.

St Michael’s Church is just opposite The Dolphin pub in Betchworth; there’s a car park next to the church in Church Street.