The town with two parish churches

PUBLISHED: 02:35 26 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:13 20 February 2013

The town with two parish churches

The town with two parish churches

Henley in Arden's ancient church bells haven't been heard for generations - but soon they'll chime again, reports David Rudge

If youre passing through Henley in Ardens High Street on Saturday, April 21, you may see the Rev John Ganjavi sitting outside the church of St Johns asking for donations to not one, but two church appeals.

The first is for the installation of a Carillon which is an instrument lodged in a belfry containing a number of small bells which can be rung to sound a chord.

The second appeal is to raise funds for the restoration of the ancient and historic bells in the tower of St Nicholas Church just 200 yards away in Beaudesert Lane.

We have a unique situation here in Henley, says John. Despite being a rather small place, the town is in fact divided into two parishes - Henley in Arden and Beaudesert, and each has its own parish.

St Johns, the parish church in Henleys High Street, was built in 1448, while St Nicholas, the parish church of Beaudesert, was built in 1170. This most unusual situation, and not found anywhere else in the county.

We are hoping to install a Carillon in the tower of St Johns in time for the Jubilee celebrations in June, says John.

Carillons are common in continental Europe but quite rare in the UK. The Carillon can be programmed to play simple tunes, such as daily hymns at specific times throughout the day and we feel this would be a wonderful addition to our historic High Street and help attract tourists to Henley.

The second appeal is the restoration of the ancient bells in St Nicholas bell tower which have not been rung for many years. There are three swing chime bells, and two date back to 1350.

Weve had them inspected and they can be restored, says John. The church is already working with organisations in the town who have pledged support for this appeal, but we are now asking residents to help us achieve our goal.

Sometimes ancient church buildings can be a burden to congregations but we love both our buildings and, with help, we wish to maintain and use them for their original purpose, says John.

St. Johns clock chimes the hours through the working day but the day legally ends at 6 pm and it would be great to mark that time each day with an act of worship a prayerful song or a hymn of praise not so much Thank God the day is over but rather Thank God for helping us through the day! A Carillon will help us do this.

Long after the de Montfort family had left this area the people rallied round and added a tower to St. Nicholas Parish Church housing three bells. Amazingly two of the original bells survive dating back to 1350! The third bell was replaced in 1711. Some elderly residents have vague childhood memories of the 1711 bell being tolled but no-one has heard the two ancient bells. We now have a wonderful opportunity to restore the bells and, once more, hear a historic sound that has been silent for too long.

John will be outside St Johns Church between 9.00am and 1.00pm and residents are encouraged to go along chat to John and find out more about these two projects and make there donations.

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