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 Nigel Brown reports on his visit to the bell tower of St Peter's Church

This web site was originally a collaboration between Mike Hamilton and myself. He did the clever bits, such as create the web pages. He also suggested crazy things, for example, "I'm going to try to twist your arm and persuade you to climb up St Peter's tower (or some other convenient high spot) with your camera and take a series of shots around 360 degrees".

So I get to do the dangerous bits like climb out on to the top of the bell tower of St. Peter's parish church, leaving Mike to say clever things like "we will be able to call it A Stairway to Heaven or For Whom The Bell Tolls". Remember, he is sitting comfortably in his armchair in Melbourne, watching the kangaroos go by.

St PetersAnyway, I found the person with the keys, Karen Chaplin, and she is only too pleased to meet me and open the doors. We meet at the agreed date and time, joined by John Cooksey, a local member of the Black Country Society, me with camera in hand. Karen unlocks the door, and after climbing countless steps up a spiral staircase we enter a room. I thought we had arrived until I notice the ropes hanging down from the ceiling. We are about a quarter of the way up.

More steps up another spiral staircase follow. Karen unlocks another door, and we are above the bells. I can confirm that there are no bats in the belfry.

I see an iron ladder in one corner, the top of which disappears into nothingness, well, darkness anyway. Karen has finished her job, mine is about to start. John stays with Karen. And remember, Mike is still sitting in his armchair back down under while I am about to go up over.

The ladder is very rusty, and just a little flexible. Oh well, no turning back. Distant memories of my parachute jump fly by as I grip the ladder for dear life and start stepping up. By the way, the ladder really is very rusty.

A lifetime later the ladder stops going upwards and I reach the trap door. Better call it a hatch, I remember thinking. I give it a gentle push, and nothing happens. A firmer push and it opens.

The first view is of very bright sunlight, as I face west at about 8pm on a summer's evening. All goes well with the photography, apart from one shot, the one over the old churchyard. I cannot convince my camera to open the shutter right into the sun.

Before stepping out onto the roof of the tower I had been thinking of what changes to expect, since Peter Barnsley did this in 1959 (see Cradley in photographs: The view in 1959); The old streets and houses between the High Street and Bridge Street were no more, obliterated in 30 years or so ago to make way for the Huntingdon Gardens flats (soon to be demolished I have heard). Most of the High Street shops have gone, and Blue Ball Lane has changed quite a lot. What I failed to prepare myself for was that there are now so many trees, even Church Road is hardly to be seen under the tree canopy.

Most of the churchyard cannot be seen either, and generally the view is much greener. Cradley park is not visibly scarred by coal mining, and is beginning to look like a forest again, at least from this distance.

The panorama of photographs had a gap, namely the shot due west into the very bright setting sun. So I had the pleasure of doing the whole thing again a couple of weeks later.

Nigel Brown

A visit to the bell tower St. Peters church

Panorama from the top of the tower c.2002 by Nigel brown

The Belfry at St. Peter’s c.2002 by Nigel Brown

The Spiral Staircase c.2002 by Nigel Brown

St. Peter’s Church c.2002 by Nigel Brown

The iron ladder in the bell tower c.2002 by Nigel Brown

The view from the top of the ladder c.2002 by Nigel Brown

External View of St Peter’s Bell Tower c.2002 by Nigel Brown

View of the churchyard from the tower  c.2002 by Nigel Brown