A village school's bell is tolling for the first time in half a century after a refurbishment uncovered ‘astounding’ historic craftsmanship.

St Michael’s Primary School dominates the skyline of Kerry with its 150-year-old bell tower – but it has remained silent since access to the tower was blocked about 50 years ago.

After a project to re-roof the building, the bell can ring out over the playground and village once again.

Keith Rimmer, of SWG Construction, which carried out the refurbishment work, said it had been a very interesting project.

“The bulk of the work involved replacing the roof of the original school building, dating back to 1868, and we worked hard to save and reuse as many of the original slates as possible,” he said.

“We also inspected the bell tower, and were amazed at the standard of workmanship. It’s 150 years old and the structure is as strong and sound as the day the tower was built – it’s really quite astounding.

“The tower has some wonderful decorative slate work and timber louvres, which were all in excellent condition.

“We cleaned the tower of small amounts of moss and foliage brought in by crows and jackdaws that have been nesting in the tower, and it was funny to see the birds were straight back into their newly refurbished tower as soon as we took the scaffolding down.

“Access to the bell itself had been blocked because the bell cord had been pulled up. We found the original key to the access door and were able to feed the cord back down into the tower.

“We gave it a test, and it was quite a moment to hear the bell ringing out over the school and village for the first time in what must have been nearly 50 years.”

Keith said the very top of the tower had an interesting feature, which required some careful restoration work.

“The top of the tower is fitted with a grand decorated finial, which may have been used as a lightning conductor,” he said.

“This was refurbished and repainted with the appropriate paints, so it is now in fine condition for at least another 100 years keeping an eye on the school below.”

“The stonework for the school was sourced from a local quarry and hewn from the ground with many decorative touches by skilled workmen more than 150 years ago.

“Every corner stone and parapet stone is unique with Victorian brickwork which has stood strong, fighting against the elements all this time.

The school was opened in September 1868 and was funded by various local people, with farmers bringing in materials to allow local tradespeople to undertake the work.

“It was a real pleasure to be able to refurbish the building to ensure it will continue to be in first-rate condition now and into the future.”