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Bells of St Mary’s brought down to earth for first time in 244 years
2:41pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in News
The bells of an ancient Test Valley church, which have hung silent for many years, could soon be ringing again thanks to an electronic chiming system.
Last week, the three bells of St Mary’s, at Michelmersh, were removed from the tower and sent off to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
This was the first time the bells had touched the ground since they were hung in 1769.
Peter Pritchett-Brown, of the parochial church council (PCC,) explained that it was no longer safe to ring the bells by the traditional method, so the foundry would construct a new steel frame to hold them in a fixed position and the bells, which will have their clappers removed, would be rung by electrically-operated hammers.
Work on the new frame can proceed thanks to anonymous loan, which the PCC hopes to repay with the help of the congregation.
The cost of the work will be £13,500: the PCC has put in £6,000 and has sent out a letter to parishioners appealing for donations.
Unusually, the bells have hung in a wooden tower which is separate from the church.
It’s believed the tower was erected during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in response to a decree that all churches should have bells to warn of invasion.
“It’s not possible for the bells to swing anymore without adverse effect on the ancient wooden structure,” said Mr Pritchett-Brown.
He said that, in addition to the new bell frame and chiming system, it iwass hoped to build new stairs within the tower – its old and wobbly ladder was removed to allow the bells to be lowered to ground level.
To find out more about the PCC’s bells appeal e-mail Mr Pritchett-Brown, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more photographs, see this week's Romsey Advertiser.