THE historic church bells that ring out most days across the city are in good hands.
Warrnambool’s Christ Church community is preparing to restore the bell tower and mechanism in a project likely to cost up to $700,000.
Parish priest Father Scott Lowery said corellas had damaged the building, nibbling away at the limestone structure and timber louvres.
The tower and mechanism had also been affected by the salty coastal environment, while grit and sand had built up in windy conditions.
“There are a couple of places where there are holes through the bell tower where the corellas have pecked their way through,” he said.
Father Lowery said the church’s age was also a factor in its deterioration. It was built 150 years ago and the bell tower added about 50 years later to house a “very significant” peal of bells.
The three Hanover bells were originally brought to Australia from Germany for the 1881 Melbourne Exhibition, where they were awarded first prize.
They were purchased by local businessman and state parliamentarian Frederick Perkins Stevens who donated them to the church in memory of his son, Frederick Stephen Stevens, who died at his Queensland property in 1879.
The bells are the oldest matched peal in Australia and Father Lowery described them as “quite unusual” because of their sound.
“Our Anglo-Saxon ears are not used to the peal of German bells.”
Father Lowery said the parish had called tenders for the work which includes replacing the louvres, cleaning, desalination and repairs and re-pointing of the mortar joints.
The internal section of the tower will also be recoated with render to help protect the deteriorating mechanism.
The project won a $90,000 grant from the state government yesterday with Premier and member for South West Coast Denis Napthine visiting the church to announce the funding.
Dr Napthine described the building as a significant historic asset.
He said the restoration would also improve occupational health and safety with the installation of a safety platform to assist with maintenance of the bells.
The grant for the tower is being matched dollar for dollar by the Ballarat Diocesan Trustees. The balance will be provided by local church fund-raising and philanthropic organisations.