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Heritage Lottery Funded

Workshops for Schools


As part of the HLF project we are running a number of workshops for schools across several themes. The idea is to stimulate interest in bells and bell ringing in the community. We have recruited a talented workshop deviser and theatre designer, Ele Slade, to create and deliver workshops, based on the ancient art of church bellringing, to a variety of people of all ages but in particular to children of school age.

Ele has extensive experience of working in schools, with children from 4 to 19, without the supervision of teachers. She has also had extensive experience of working in the professional theatre, particularly with community and similar groups where her people skills ensures the best is obtained from the participants.

Ele has excellent contacts within the various professional areas of the brief covering, sound, dance, devised performance and film. As part of the brief she has identified and engaged professionals to deliver those aspects of the brief not covered by her own experience.​ She will ensure the whole team of workshop facilitators:

  • Collaborate with the schools, teachers and the workshop team to ensure a smooth and effective delivery of high quality learning opportunities for schools involved in the project.

  • Devise and deliver CPD sessions for teachers.

  • Devise and execute all design stages from concept to final hand-off to individual practitioners.

  • Conceptualize original ideas that bring simplicity and user friendliness to complex designs that enable the workshop participants to understand the nature of bellringing and its impact upon society.

  • Coordinate the creation of storyboards, workshop outlines, sound scapes and social history to effectively communicate the heritage of bell ringing in Richmond.

  • Present and defend designs and key project deliverables to peers and the HLF project Manager.

  • Engage with the HLF project team in the evaluation of the workshops and other activities.


Workshops for schools have four underpinning themes:


Bells and their Buildings (art, design, drama)


Bells in Society (English, history, writing and speaking)


Scientific Bellringing (Mathematics, Dance)


Bells as Musical Instruments (music, sound technology)


Bells have had a place in community life for centuries and as part of our project we are exploring with schools what bells mean to society today and what contribution they can make to the lives and learning of young people

As part of our project the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled us to offer free workshops to schools drawing on the talents of a group of four professionals who work in theatre and who are each experienced in facilitation of learning in schools and the community.

These practitioners are building a set of four workshops which can be flexed to meet the bespoke needs and contexts of each school. The broad focus of each workshop centres on an aspect of bells and their heritage as a stimulus to promote learning and social development through the mediums of design, speaking and writing, sound, and movement. Our four practitioners are working as follows:

  • Ele Slade, as lead practitioner/facilitator and project artistic lead, is running visual and spatial design workshops under the heritage theme ‘Bells and their buildings – space, atmosphere, materials’. Ele is a designer in theatre and opera.

  • Stewart Melton (writer, director, dramaturg) is running text and spoken word workshops under the heritage theme: ‘The social and cultural heritage of bellringing’. He will work with our HLF project’s local history group to incorporate old documents from the tower, parish and town into his stimulus material.

  • Bob Birch is running sound design workshops in schools under the heritage theme ‘Bells as sound - musicality, sound and shape’. He is capturing field recordings of the old and new bells which will feature in our permanent exhibition of the old bells and which he will use within the workshops.

  • Rachel Drazek is running dance and movement workshops under the heritage theme ‘Scientific Ringing – the traditional art of English bellringing’. She will explore method ringing and bell movements as impulse for performance, movement and group choreography.

We are offering the workshops in many different ways, including:

  • Four day-long workshops running simultaneously in each of the four areas above. A student would experience one theme only but in depth. This may be more suitable for older pupils.
  • Four half day workshops with pupils experiencing two of the themes across a full day, or offered to a wider group of children so that each experiences one half day workshop.
  • A carousel of 4 workshops such that each child engages with all four themes through the day.
  • Two day residencies.
  • Half term projects linked to the curriculum.

We envisage that about 25-30 pupils will participate in each of the workshops. We would be happy to discuss other ways of distributing the time and expertise of the practitioners and they would welcome discussions with staff after the sessions. 

As part of our overall project we have also undertaken to create outreach that will showcase some of the workshop outcomes including:

  • one or more temporary exhibitions of the school workshop outcomes;
  • a temporary exhibition at the Richmondshire Museum for their Spring/Summer 2018 season
  • a web-site featuring records from the project and work produced by students from the school workshops


The creative practitioners planning aspects of the workshops





Ele with a group from one of the schools








The Bells and Tower of St Mary’s Richmond, North Yorkshire

c.a. 1399: the tower was built


c.a. 1500: our earliest remaining bell was cast. The maker’s mark indicates that it is from the Seliok Foundry in Nottingham and that it was by either John Seliok (1470-1507) or Richard Seliok I (1507 – 1523)


1697: four new bells were cast by Samuel Smith of York. Two were lighter than the 1500 bell and two were heavier. Hanging alongside the earlier bell, these would have provided a total of five bells, the minimum for scientific change ringing to be practised. The five bells would have enabled our ringers to follow in the footsteps of the ‘father of bellringing’, Fabian Stedman, who in 1677 wrote Campanologia, a book on the scientific art of bellringing and invented a ringing method or ‘principle’ named after himself. He followed the lead set by Richard Duckworth who authored Tintinnalogia in 1668. 


1739: an additional bell was provided becoming the treble to make a ring of six. The the gift of Conyer’s D’Arcy, MP for the town, it was cast by Edward Seller of York. At the same time a new frame was built by James Harrison bellhanger, of Barton on Humber, Lincolnshire. James was the brother of John  Harrison, a clockmaker who constructed the first effective marine chronometer which eventually won a prize of £20,000 offered by an Act of 1714. James turned to bellhanging, bellfounding and milling after helping his brother make regulators and this first sea clock. It took some years and a court case or two before the Royal Society admitted that this Harrison chronometer was indeed an effective and reliable timepiece, suitable for estimating the longitudinal position of ships at sea, and paid the prize money. Sections of the Harrison frame, carved with his name and those of Church officials, are extant and hang in the Tower.

1862: the tenor, the heaviest of the 1697 bells, cracked and was replaced by a new bell from Warner’s of London which carries a crest indicating Warner’s Royal warrant. The headstock from this Warner tenor bell, with an inscription telling us about the replacement of the bell, remains and hangs in our exhibition.




1894: a new frame for eight bells was installed by Thomas Mallaby & Sons of Masham, Yorkshire. This provided for a ring of eight hung on two levels with the heaviest four underneath. In the event, only the existing six bells were hung leaving the augmentation to eight to a later date. This frame will be replaced when our new bells are installed. Prior to its removal, the Mallaby frame was accurately recorded by Archivist Chris Pickford of Bedford. This record is in our exhibition along with some fragments of the frame. The image shows the basic frame with the bell sides removed.


1904: a treble and a second bell, cast by John Warner, were added to the existing ring of six to create a ring of eight bells. The treble bell was provided by public subscription, records of which are amongst the papers in the tower. The second bell was the gift of Lawrence Dundas, 1st Marquess of Richmond and 3rd Earl of Zetland, whose grandson has been patron of our current restoration project.

1923: Bells 2-7 were tuned and all the bells re-hung by Taylors of Loughborough. The fittings are Taylors from that date. At that time some extra steel bracing was added to assist in keeping the frame rigid.

2016: in November and December a new ring of eight bells was cast for St Mary's by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough to the classic profile of a 1920-1930 set of Taylor bells. These were installed in the tower in a new, single level frame, in May 2017.

Our Heritage Lottery grant is funding us to retain the five historic bells from 1500, 1697 and 1739 in a purpose designed exhibition above the new bells. They are shown below cleaned and prepared for installation. The bell at left front is the old sixth, the Seliok bell of 1500, at front right is the 1739, Darcy Bell, the others are the three remaining Samuel Smith of York bells, from 1697.



The following picture galleries are of the week when the bells were removed


Removal week JP and LF



We commissioned Chris Pickford FSA, sometime archivist of Bedfordshire and recognised national expert in Bell Frames, to survey our tower and frame and to produce drawings and a description of the old frame before removal.


Chris's  report is shown below along with the drawings and photographs he put together during the survey.