How to do work to church bells, frames and fittings

This is a short guide for clergy, churchwardens, Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) and bellringers. It will tell you what works require a faculty, what works are covered by an Archdeacon’s List B Permission, and what works need approval by the PCC. It will help you start, plan and submit a project to the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC).

Broadly, there are two kinds of bell installations.

The first is bells for changeringing which are hung in bellframes with ringing fittings. In some cases, these bells may be ‘unringable’. This means they cannot be rung for full circle changeringing. The reasons for bells being unringable vary, anything from towers, frames or fittings being unsafe to neglect and rumour.  

The second is bells which are not hung on ringing fittings; either they are hung dead (i.e. they cannot move) and are struck by hammers or have clappers which can be swung, or are bells which hang on levers and can be swung chimed. These bells are to be found in towers or in bellcotes.

Any project in a tower relating to bells, fittings and bellframes will involve a wide group of stakeholders ranging from those who are legally responsible for the work (the PCC); those who may have a statutory right to be consulted (the Church Buildings Council, Historic England and/or the amenity societies); archaeologists (not all archaeology is underground); architects; structural engineers; the suppliers; bellringers; and the DAC. Once a project is approved by the DAC for recommendation to the Chancellor for a faculty, a public notice has to be displayed for 28 days as part of the faculty process

Any project should be formally approved and adopted by the PCC before work starts. The PCC legally owns any project in a tower and the contractual relationships with the suppliers and other parties. The PCC pays the bills and provides the insurance. So, all works, even minor repairs should be carried out with the full knowledge and approval of the PCC. 

Before you start a project, it is best for bellringers to consult the PCC and the DAC right at the beginning. Open communication makes things easy for all parties.

Contacting a supplier

When contacting a supplier, you can ask for a report or a quotation for a project. There is a world of difference between the two. A report should detail the condition of the bell installation. A quotation should cover suggested works to the bells, frame or fittings by a supplier. It’s best to get quotations from at least two suppliers for the same list of works.

Some works to bells and bellframes may affect other parts of the tower; for example, the tower fabric, the clock and chiming mechanism, wiring, windows or doors, access to the tower roof or protecting the louvres. Please liaise with the DAC to see which of its Advisers will need to work with you on your project.

Your proposed work must satisfy the Church of England's planning permission which is enshrined in the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991. Failure to comply may jeopardise the Church's exemption from many requirements of planning law. All documents can be used as evidence in Law, as a faculty is a legal document.

Please note the DAC does not recommend any suppliers or contractors. The DAC Bells Adviser can help you to identify suitable specialist suppliers and contractors, and contact details may be obtained from him/her.

Faculty or List B Archdeacon’s Permission? 

From January 2016 the following changes have been made for works to bells, frames or fittings.

Works which do not need a Faculty or List B approval. These items are known as List A (and used to be known as Minor Matters or de minimis):

  1. The inspection or routine maintenance of bells, fittings and frames.
  2. The repair and maintenance of clappers, crown staples (including rebushing) and bell wheels.
  3. The repair or replacement of stays, pulleys, bellropes, ropes bosses, sliders or slider gear.
  4. The repainting of metal bellframes and metal bell fittings. A specification of appropriate paints can be given by the DAC


  1. These exceptions apply if no bell is lifted from its bearings.
  2. Works should not include the resoling or re-rimming of a bellwheel.
  3. No tonal alterations to any bells.
  4. These items do not make any alteration to an installation.
  5. Regular visual inspection of the belfry and regular removal of any debris that may be carried into it is vital for the safe and long-lasting operation of the installation.
  6. Training or support in belfry maintenance is available from the DAC Bells Adviser.
  7. Or consider putting a contract in place for regular maintenance with a supplier.

List B. These works do not require a faculty, but instead receive an Archdeacon’s Permission after consultation with the DAC and its Bells Adviser. The Archdeacon will confirm in writing to the PCC that permission is given:

  1. The lifting of a bell to clean its bearings or housings. The bell has to be in a ringable condition.
  2. The like for like replacement of bearings and their housings, gudgeons, crown staples assemblies, steel or cast iron headstocks and wheels. The bell is in a ringable condition and there is no drilling or turning of the bell.
  3. 1.The replacement of bell bolts. The bell must be in a ringable condition.
  4. The replacement of metal clappers with wooden shafted clappers. The bell has to be in a ringable conditon.
  5. The treatment of wooden bellframes with preservative or insecticide materials.
  6. The re-pinning or re-facing of Ellacombe apparatus. The bells have to be in a ringable condition.
  7. The introduction of peal boards in a location not usually accessible to the public.


  1. Please refer to the guidance published by the Church Buildings Council (CBC).
  2. It is the responsibility of the PCC to ensure these works are carried out.
  3. For bells in regular use, these works should only be carried out by persons with sufficient skills and knowledge. The person(s) should be insured.
  4. If an installation is being brought back into use after a period of over five years a professional bell hanger must be consulted, (together with the PCC’s inspecting architect and/or a qualified Structural Engineer). Consultation with the DAC is recommended.
  5. List B is not for works that require the removal of the bell from the belfry or other work that would make a lasting change.
  6. Training or support in belfry maintenance is available from the DAC Bells Adviser.
  7. Or consider putting a contract in place for regular maintenance with a supplier.

All other works require a faculty, including:

  • The installation of sound management systems in the tower and spire louvres and the installation of dumbbells or training bells.

A suggested planning process:

  1. Bellringers submit an idea or a plan to the PCC for approval. A project manager should be appointed. Bellringers and PCC work together to produce a plan for the DAC’s consideration. The PCC is the customer.
  2. The PCC and project manager ask the DAC for advice.
  3. The project manager informs or seeks advice from the inspecting architect and/or structural engineer; seeks advice from the CBC, Historic England and the amenity societies when necessary; asks for inspection reports or quotations from the suppliers.
  4. Statements of Significance and Need are written, and the project is submitted to the DAC (contact the DAC Secretary for more information and application papers).

Statements of Significance and Statements of Need

The CBC provides excellent help in writing these documents at http://www.churchcare.co.uk/images/Guidance_on_statements_of_significance_and_need.pdf

What to submit to the DAC:

  • The faculty application: on paper or online (please consult the DAC secretary)
  • A brief project outline
  • Statement of Significance
  • Statement of Need
  • Project outline
  • Quotations (stating the PCC’s preference and why)
  • Funding information
  • Letters of support (if applicable)
  • DAC Bell Adviser’s report
  • Reports from the CBC, Historic England and amenity groups.
  • Architect’s report (if applicable)
  • Structural engineer’s report (if applicable)
  • Archaeologist’s report (if applicable)
  • Photographs
  • Insurance details if applicable. Work by volunteers requires notification to the PCC’s insurers and a policy approval
  • Full summary

The Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), Church Building Council (CBC), Historic England and the Amenity Societies

The DAC, CBC, Historic England and the relevant amenity societies should all be consulted before a significant project is submitted to the DAC for a faculty application.

Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC)

Mark Carter, Secretary

The Old Palace, Deansway, Worcester, WR1 2JE

mcarter@cofe-worcester.org.uk 01905 732809

The Church Buildings Council (CBC)

Church House, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3AZ

churchcare@churchofengland.org.ukJacinta.fisher@churchofengland.org 020 7898 1863

Historic England (formerly English Heritage)

The Axis, 10 Holliday Street, Birmingham, B1 1TG

e-wmids@HistoricEngland.org.uk 0121 625 6887

Georgian Group

6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5DX

info@georgiangroup.org.uk 01773 828122

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)

37 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY

info@spab.org.uk 01306 627048

Victorian Society (Vic Soc)

1 Priory Gardens, London, W4 1TT

admin@victoriansociety.org.uk 020 8747 5893

The Twentieth Century Society

70 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6EJ

caseworker@c20society.org.uk 020 7250 3857

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

The Hive, Sawmill Walk, The Butts, Worcester, WR1 3PB

archaeology@worcestershire.gov.uk 01905 822866

Useful reading

Bells and Bellframes Code of Practice (CBC).

Many church bells and frames are of archaeological significance and are listed. Look at

Bells and the Law (CBC)

Churches Closed for Regular Public Worship (previously known as redundant churches)

Recording bellframes

A Glossary of Terms

These books are helpful:

Buildings for Mission: A complete guide to the care, conservation and development of churches. Canterbury Press Norwich. ISBN-10: 1848257600 ISBN-13: 978-1848257603

Changing Churches: A practical guide to the faculty system. Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781441156433

The Stone Skeleton: Structural Engineering of Masonry Architecture. Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-62963-2

Please note the DAC does not recommend any suppliers or contractors, but contact details may be obtained from the DAC Bells Adviser.

Mark Regan, DAC Bells Adviser

January 2018