ENGLAND: Bell ringer ding-dong could see York Minster fall silent this Christmas for first time since 1361
York Minster bells could remain silent this Christmas after bellringers across the region are boycotting it over its decision to sack its own ringers
By Nicola Harley
December 15, 2016
York Minster's bells could remain silent this Christmas for the first time since 1361 as sympathetic bell ringers boycott the venue after it axed its team of 30 dedicated campanologists.
The Minster's bell ringers were left in tears in October when they arrived for practice to find the locks to the belfry had been changed and they had all been sacked.
With a 17,000-strong petition calling for the bells to ring at Christmas, the Minister had approached campanologists from neighbouring churches to ring in the festive season.
But, one by one, they are rejecting the Minster's offer in an "act of solidarity" with the York ringers.
Leeds Minster's deputy ringing master Robert Childs said members discussed the invitation from York's Dean and Chapter during a practice session where 13 members voted no, with two abstaining.
However, many of them knew the minster's team of 30 volunteer ringers, who were all dismissed by the Dean and Chapter in the autumn, and felt they could not ring the bells in their place.
He said: "They felt it would be the wrong thing to do.
"You could see it as an act of solidarity with our fellow bell ringers in York."
President of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, Chris Mew, said the Minster is inviting ringers from outside the area to assist in ringing the bells over the Christmas period.
He said they "must follow their own consciences" as to whether they accept.
"Whilst this may be attractive to the community it has raised varying reaction from ringers approached to help and from the wider ringing fraternity," he said, adding that it was a "pity" the Minster had not processed the safeguarding applications for some of the former ringers in time for the bells to be rung again at Christmas.
But it will take about three months before the recruitment, induction and training process has been completed and ringers deployed.
A York Minster spokeswoman said: "The Chapter of York is making plans for future bell ringing arrangements at York Minster and we are drawing on expertise from around the county and country to help us shape those plans.
"We are exploring options for ringing at Christmas but are not yet in a position to confirm if we will go ahead".
Speaking in October, a bell ringer, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "The reaction was one of complete shock and people were in tears afterwards.
"The Minster has been a very unhappy place in recent months - but we had no idea this was coming."
Despite claiming the initial decision was for health and safety reasons, it became apparent it was due to safeguarding issues surrounding David Potter, a leading figure in the bellringing team who has been the subject of two police investigations following allegations made in 1999 and 2015. On neither occasion were charges brought.
The Minster has said all the axed bell ringers are entitled to apply to join the new team, where they will go through training and an induction process.
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