The school bell can ring in Kerry once again
14 May 2020

The bell will toll once more following refurbishment work at a village school, near Newtown, which uncovered some astounding historic craftsmanship.

St Michael’s Primary School, in Kerry, dominates the village skyline with its 150-year-old bell tower - but the bell has remained silent ever since access to the tower was blocked about 50 years ago.

Now, following a project by SWG to re-roof the building, the bell can ring out over the playground and village once again.

Wonderful decorative slate work

Kerry School bell tower

Keith Rimmer, of SWG Construction, who managed the refurbishment work, said it had been a very interesting project.

“The bulk of the work involved replacing the roof of the original school building, dating back to 1868, and we worked hard to save and reuse as many of the original slates as possible,” he said.

“We also inspected the bell tower, and were amazed at the standard of workmanship. It’s over 150 years old and the structure is as strong and sound as the day the tower was built - it’s really quite astounding.

“The tower has some wonderful decorative slate work and timber louvres, which were all in excellent condition.

“We cleaned the tower of small amounts of moss and foliage brought in by the crows and jackdaws that have been nesting in the tower, and it was funny to see the birds were straight back into their newly refurbished tower as soon as we took the scaffolding down.

“Access to the bell itself had been blocked because the bell cord had been pulled up. During the work, we found the original key to the access door and were able to feed the cord back down into the tower, so the bell can now be rung again.

“We gave it a test, and it was quite a moment to hear the bell ringing out over the school and village for the first time in what must have been nearly 50 years.”

Victorian craftsmanship has stood the test of time

The top of Kerry School bell tower

Keith said the very top of the tower had an interesting feature, which required some careful restoration work.

“The top of the tower is fitted with a grand decorated finial, which may have been used as a lightning conductor,” he said. “This was refurbished and repainted with the appropriate paints, so it is now in fine condition for at least another hundred years keeping an eye on the school below.

“The stonework for the school was sourced from a local quarry and hewn from the ground with many decorative touches by skilled workmen more than 150 years ago.

“Every corner stone and parapet stone is unique with Victorian brickwork which has stood strong, fighting against the elements all this time.

“The school was opened in September 1868 and was funded by various local people, with farmers bringing in all the materials from the area to allow local tradespeople to undertake the work.

“It was a real pleasure to be able to refurbish the building to ensure it will continue to be in first-rate condition now and into the future.”