Find out how the Great Paxton Church Bell project came to fruition.

Background & First Steps

In one of the regular inspections by the church architect in 2015, we were advised that the bells, the frame and the fittings were in need of major restoration and it would be unsafe to ring the bells on a regular basis.  This merely confirmed what the bell ringers already knew and Canon Reverend Annette Reed and the Parochial Church Council agreed that action was needed if the bells were ever to be rung on a regular basis. It is worth noting that the oldest bell was cast in about 1400 AD and the other four were cast between 1721 and 1896 so they had all lived a full life!

The first step was to commission three renowned bell foundries/bell hangers to prepare draft reports, recommendations and quotations for returning the bells to a safe and full working order. The opportunity was also taken to investigate the introduction of a sixth bell which would significantly enhance the quality of full circle ringing and would be a major attraction for both new and experienced bell ringers.

Great Paxton Church

Reports & Quotations

The reports and quotations were received and considered by all necessary authorities and the preferred company to undertake the work was John Taylor & Co from Loughborough. The work to be undertaken by Taylor’s was costed at £78.5k. In order for Taylor’s to safely undertake their work, we would need to install lighting into the bell tower at a cost of £3.8k. Other expenditure was required, including the installation of a CCTV system so that members of the public who could not scale the bell tower could see the bells being rung from the comfort of the church pews. The total cost, of which the vast majority is on fixed contracts, will be in the order of £89k.


This amount of money far exceeded church funds and a major programme of fundraising was commenced. The first steps were to approach charitable organisations and we were extremely grateful to receive offers from four organisations totalling £14.5k.We were also very fortunate to receive a gift of £10.4k from a village resident to pay for the cost of casting and installing a new sixth bell.  With a multitude of donations, in various forms, from people within the village and with the certainty of recovering VAT from a government scheme, we were left with a shortfall of £47.2k.

We were then faced with a big decision which was either to abandon the project or, as a last resort, make an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).  For a few people, it was decided that we could never forgive ourselves if we didn’t try to raise the funds even though we knew that such an application would be a major undertaking. Our first application to the HLF was unsuccessful as we did not fully involve the village and its occupants in an inclusive manner. Although the lack of success was a bitter pill to swallow, we refused to be beaten and resubmitted with a much different approach that involved the community in many ways. This included talks at Great Paxton Primary School, creation of a new website, a coach trip to the bell foundry, a volunteer recruitment drive and a number of other initiatives. We were delighted to receive a letter from the HLF on 1 August 2017 advising us that we had been successful and were being awarded a grant of £47.2k which meant that we were fully funded.
Great Paxton Church

Project Underway

As a result, we were able to instruct Taylor’s to undertake the work also advise Darnell Electrical Installations to install lighting in the bell tower. The latter work has been completed and we now have a confirmed slot in Taylor’s schedule of work with the bells being removed from the church on 9 April 2018 with the expectation that the refurbished and the new bell would be rehung in July 2018.

The project is now fully underway and we are 100% certain that we have the necessary funds and village involvement to complete the work which will restore the bells and their infrastructure to an extent that no further major works will be required for another 100 years.


The week of 7th to 12th April 2018 the 5 existing bells were removed by Taylors of Loughborough to their Bell Foundry.  In addition to the experienced bell hanger from Taylors, six local volunteers provided essential assistance.  Whilst the bells were away the opportunity was taken to clean and repair the belfry floors and windows and apply preservative to the bell frame and metal work.  This was all undertaken by volunteers.  A key date was the 26th April 2018 when a full coach of people travelled to Loughborough to see the new treble bell being cast at Taylors Bell Foundry.  On 2nd June 2018 an auction of old bell fixtures and fittings took place at Great Paxton Church and an amazing £700 was raised.

At last the day came when the bells returned from Taylors Foundry, which included the 5 original bells and the new treble bell.  It is important to note the existing tenor bell had been recast.  On 9th July 2018, all the bells were returned to the church.  The 17th July 2018 was an historic day as it was the first time in the history of the church that 6 bells were rung.  It was carried out under the supervision of Taylors bell hanger.  The sound was amazing!  On 20th July 2018 the new CCTV was installed which will enable ringers and members of the public to view the bell whilst in use.  The last aspect of the project was the completion of the adaptation of the bell ringing floor which has provided more space for the ringers.  The work was undertaken by Taylors of Loughborough and is a great success.  Finally, on 18th October 2018, the Bishop of Ely dedicated the bells at a well attended service.
Great Paxton Church
Great Paxton Church


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Mrs Nicci Jones
Benefice Administrator

c/o The Vicarage,
24 St. James' Road,
Little Paxton,
St. Neots,
Cambs, PE19 6QW

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