Noise complaint silences church bells after 130 years

The bells of St Bartholomew’s Church in Ballsbridge have gone silent over threat of fines for noise pollution

Vicar Andrew McCroskery of St Bartholomew’s Church of Ireland in Ballsbridge. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Vicar Andrew McCroskery of St Bartholomew’s Church of Ireland in Ballsbridge. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Sat, Sep 21, 2013, 07:41

The bells of St Bartholomew’s Church, which have rung out over Ballsbridge in Dublin for more than 130 years, have been silenced following a complaint about noise pollution to Dublin City Council.

The clock and “carillon”, a multiple musical bell mechanism, at the Church of Ireland parish church on Clyde Road were installed in 1881 and are protected structures.

The bells, which are controlled by the clock, chimed every 15 minutes. The church was warned by the council that it faced fines of €3,000 if it did not stop them ringing at night.

Following a complaint to the council in 2009 the church installed a mechanism to silence the bells between 11pm and 7am. However, the mechanism failed on two occasions.

Following further complaints to the council, the church was warned to either fix the mechanism or turn off the bells permanently, Vicar Andrew McCroskery said. The decision was taken recently to stop the clock and silence the bells.

“The mechanism to hold back the clappers has failed twice and we can’t risk it failing again because we can’t afford to pay a fine of €3,000, so the only solution, with great sadness, was to stop the clock and the bells.”

In years before the complaint to the council, the church had received the occasional “inquiry” from new residents to the area about the chimes.

“We always asked them to see if they could live with them for a week and to come back to us if they couldn’t. No one ever came back.”

In addition to failing, the mechanism that stopped the clappers was putting a strain on the clock and bells, which could cause permanent damage, according to a specialist horologist engaged by the church.

“We have a duty of care to these historic protected architectural features so we can’t install something which might cause damage, but at the same time the nature of these structures is they go into decline if they’re not used,” the Rev McCroskery said.

The UK-based horologist will return next month to see if a solution can be found, but any solution is likely to be costly, the vicar warned.

“We want the bells to be part of the historic soundscape of Ballsbridge again but the cost might leave us with no choice but to keep them silent.”

The council said it had agreed not to take legal action on the undertaking the bells would not ring at night and it is awaiting the outcome of the review by the church’s expert.

St Bartholomew’s is known for its High Anglican liturgical tradition and its outstanding church music.

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