As the finishing stages were applied to the now completed arched entrance to St Hilda’s Anglican Church in Katoomba Street in late 2012, Reverend Ray Robinson received a surprise visitor.
“A fellow from Sydney called Ron Shepherd came up for a visit and introduced himself as a member of the Australia New Zealand Association of Bellringers (ANZAB) and straight away asked if he could take a look inside our bell tower,” Rev Robinson said.
“It was the last thing I’d expected and I told him we only had one bell and there was nothing much to see, but he insisted.”
Mr Shepherd said his organisation is always on the lookout for bell towers and suggested the church should aim towards having a peal of swinging bells the community could be proud of — and he was prepared to donate a bell himself.
“I said we haven’t got any money for it but we are certainly open to the idea,” Rev Robinson said.
“Almost six months later I can now confirm we will put in a development application to council in a few months to rebuild the inside of the bell tower to be able to install a peal of six to eight bells on ropes and build a spiral staircase.
“The congregation and the parish council are very happy to support this as a community thing and we will be launching a fundraising program that people can contribute to, for example in memory of a loved one.”
Rev Robinson said the project could take a couple of years to realise, but the church had already secured three bells — the church’s current one used at Sunday worship, a bell from England to be donated by Mr Shepherd plus an 1849 bell found in a river at Bull Sands Fort in the United Kingdom, sourced by The Celtic Trust.
“There is no peal of bells in the Blue Mountains at the moment and it would be lovely to hear the sound of bells ringing in tune in the historic Katoomba Street precinct.
“I love being in a really strong arts community and St Hilda herself was a promoter of the arts in the 7th century and discovered England’s first poet.
“If I can just discover Katoomba’s first bellringers, I’ll be cool with that.”
Rev Robinson said the church’s new disabled friendly front entrance, mostly funded by the congregation, is helping St Hilda’s open up to the Katoomba community.
“We had about 1200 people attend our recent religious art exhibition, local theatre and table tennis clubs regularly use our church hall and our music and performance program is in full swing, with St Hilda’s hosting the Chamber Philharmonia Cologne last Friday (March 15) and a Blue Mountains Music Festival fringe event on Sunday.”
For more information, visit www.sthildas.net.