Ringing the bell in Brigus
Heritage committee raises new tower at historic church
A 130-year-old bell at the historic St. George’s Church in Brigus has found a new home. Thanks to the efforts of the St. George’s Heritage Committee, the bell tower restoration project is nearing completion. George Jerrett, whose great-grandfather was the church’s master builder, says the new bell tower “looks even better than the old one” that blew down in the 1950s. And he is looking forward to ringing the bell once the restoration work is complete.
After high winds blew down the bell tower at St. George’s Anglican Church in Brigus in the 1950s, parishioners wondered if it would ever be rebuilt. Now, the bell tower restoration project is 90 per cent complete, thanks to the ongoing work of the St. George’s Heritage Committee.
George Jerrett, whose greatgrandfather was the church’s master builder, says the restored bell tower “looks … even better than the old one that was there.”
He should know, having “spent a lot of time in (it) at one time, tolling the bell for people who had died … If they were 100, you tolled it 100 times.”
Don Burrage, a St. John’s lawyer who owns a house in Brigus, chairs the committee which was incorporated in 2003 to “preserve the church as an historic site,” he explained. In 2004, the committee bought the building, which was erected in 1876, renaming it St. George’s Heritage Church.
Work in phases
The restoration work is proceeding in phases. The first two phases involved the installation of a wheelchair-accessible washroom and a wheelchair ramp, along with the restoration of the church’s exterior. Kip Mitchell, a master carpenter from Cupids, completed that work over two seasons.
The third phase is the bell tower project itself.
“We rang (the bell) on Christmas Day (2011) for the first time since the tower has been erected,” said Burrage, who works with the province’s Department of Justice.
“Coincidentally, at the same time, the power went out in Brigus, but there was no correlation,” he added with a smile.
Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place in the spring, the committee has some finish work to do, including painting.
Burrage explains that a fourth phase, the restoration of the church basement, involves “opening up the basement to the public (and) providing some interpretive displays.” He joked, “I keep adding phases.” A fifth is the restoration of the graveyard to the east and west of the church.
“By the time I’m finished the fifth, I’ll probably think of a sixth,” he quipped.
Funding for the bell tower project was provided by the Gill Ratcliffe Foundation ($50,000) and the provincial government’s Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development ($12,000).
Newfound Builders of Brigus “donated some of their time to help us defray some of the costs,” Burrage noted. “Then, otherwise, we have our own resources from concerts and so forth that we’ve done in the past.”
The primary function of St. George’s Heritage Church is as a “cultural venue for concerts, choirs, poetry readings, plays, things of that nature, mostly musical performances and concerts,” Burrage added. It’s even been used for halfa-dozen weddings.
The long-term goal is to “ensure that we have the financial ability on a go-forward basis to maintain (the building) and keep it here for the next 150 years.
“I’m hoping people see (the restored bell tower) as a nice addition to the community.”
George Jerrett, who has been asked to ring the bell once the restoration work is complete, says, “it’s going to be wonderful to hear the old bell again.”
Don Burrage is chair or St. George’s Heritage Committee Inc., whose mandate includes
restoring the St. George’s bell tower.
This photo, taken in August 2011, shows the early stages of construction of a new bell tower at St. George’s Heritage Church in Brigus.
The wooden shelter that covered the bell outside St. George’s Historic Church in Brigus
was dislodged from its concrete foundation on
Dec. 22, 2011 by gale force winds.
These are the drawings used by the people constructing a new bell tower at St. George’s Heritage Church in Brigus.
George M. Jerrett’s great-grandfather, George C. Jerrett, was the master builder of St. George’s Anglican Church, Brigus.
This old photo of St. George’s Anglican Church in Brigus shows what the bell tower looked like before it was toppled by high winds in the 1950s.