Church bells with links to a County Durham town’s railway heritage can once again chime thanks to a £30,000 refurbishment project.

The bells of St John’s Parish Church in Shildon were installed by North Eastern Railway in 1902 and are widely considered to be among the best ring of eight bells in the country. As well as helping to mark local and national events for more than a century, the bells are a popular destination for school trips and generations of children have learnt the art of bell ringing in the church’s tower. Now children as young as eight are part of the regular ringing band and bell ringers from other areas often visit.

To ensure the bells can continue to ring for years to come, St John’s Church launched a fundraising mission to secure the £30,000 needed to refurbish them. Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership (AAP) was among the organisations to help the church reach its target, with Cllr Shirley Quinn and Cllr Garry Huntington contributing a total of £3,000 from their neighbourhood budgets.

The project was also boosted by the church’s own funds, generous donations from local people and grants from the Durham and Newcastle Bell Ringers Association, The Busy Bees and the All Churches Trust.

Tower captain Trevor Thompson said: “Without the support we have received – both financially and physically – this work just wouldn’t have been possible and so we are incredibly grateful to everyone who helped us reach our fundraising target.

“This refurbishment will ensure the ringing can continue and Shildon will continue to boast one of the best ring of eight bells in the country. It will also enable children and young people to discover more about the town’s heritage.

“We had to cancel our rededication service due to the coronavirus pandemic but plan to hold a celebration of the bells as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Andrew Walker, Bishop Auckland and Shildon AAP coordinator said: “I am delighted we have been able to support this project through Cllr Quinn and Cllr Huntington’s neighbourhood budget.

“The bells of St John’s are an important part of Shildon’s heritage and now they can help the town commemorate events and mark milestones for generations to come.”

To find out more about the work of Durham County Council’s 14 AAPs, visit