After nine years of fundraising by the local community, a bequest from Jack and Peggy Armstrong
and a grant of £100,000 from The Heritage Lottery Fund
work began early in 2013 to restore and renovate the church tower and to recast and rehang the peal of eight bells. Work on the tower concluded in September and the bells were hung in time for them to be rung for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
During 2013, the Bell and Tower project saw members of the local community visit the Whitechapel Bell Foundry
and take part in genealogy and calligraphy workshops. A new “Church Trail” was written, including worksheets for children, to guide visitors around the church highlighting the many interesting features both inside and outside the church - the local Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies toured the church and completed the church trails. The local school children have visited the church to see the bells and spoke to representatives of the bell foundry to learn about the bells.
This is not the end of the bell project. The new bells have been hung on modern fittings and are much easier to ring than the old bells. The current team of bell-ringers, led by Tower Captain Jeff Fox,
are looking forward to welcoming new ringers of all ages to swell their ranks and also to welcoming teams of visiting ringers.
The ringing of the new bells will form an integral part of the village’s commemoration of World War One. The previous bells were last restored in 1908-1910 - to celebrate the restoration a Peal of Bob Major
was rung on October 14, 1910 by eight young men from the village all of whom served their country in The Great War.
Only one of these eight men, Alfred Funnell.
, died, on the Somme on September 4, 1916. To commemorate all those who died in World War One and all those who served our bell-ringers will ring the same Peal of Bob Major on September 4, 2016. At the same time a permanent exhibition will be unveiled documenting the bell project and also the service of the men of the village in World War One and commemorating all those who have served our country.
Churchwarden and Fabric Officer, Geoff Blyth
, said: “We have had an amazing team working on this project - from the local community who have tirelessly worked fundraising for over nine years and The Heritage Lottery Fund who have supported us with a very generous grant to the volunteers, very talented craftsmen who completed the building work and stone masonry and the bell foundry and bell hangers.
“Because of all the hard work everyone has put in the bells will be able to ring out from St. Mary’s for several generations. The Bishop’s visit is a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to the local community and all those who have worked on the project and for our team of bell-ringers to show-off the new peal.”
Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “It's wonderful that this grant from HLF means the church bells at St Mary the Virgin
are ringing once again and that they will be able to play a very meaningful role in commemorating the upcoming First World War centenary events.”
Chance to have a go at bell-ringing
If you fancy have a go at bell ringing, the Southern Branch of the Norwich Diocesan Association of Belllringer
s are staging a taster day at Brockdish
towers on Saturday March 15.
Chairman David Hillier
said: “You can visit a belfry and have a look at the bells under guidance of an experienced steeple keeper. You can also have a try at handling a bell, and be put in touch with an experienced teacher who will guide you through the early stages of bell-handling.”
If you would like more details of the day, please contact: David Hillier on 01379 740158 or visit: http://southnorfolkringers.webplus.net/
Pictured above, the tenor bell leaving the church in May 2013 and top, the new tenor bell awaiting hanging. Pictures copyright of Storm Roberts.