Ring­ing the bell in Bri­gus

Her­itage com­mit­tee raises new tower at his­toric church

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­PASS

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.”

Cul­tural venue

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.”

rbur­tonj@nfld.net

Pho­tos by Bur­ton K. Janes/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

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.

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