July 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Bells which have remaining largely silent for more than 60 years will ring out once more on Sunday.
And it is hoped that the Bishop of Norwich Graham James, who will be rededicating the bells at St Thomas’ church in Foxley, near Dereham, will take one of the ropes to help their dulcet chimes be heard across the countryside.
The six bells and bell frame were cast in Norwich in 1755 but some had cracked and the tower floor was crumbling.
The restoration project was made possible by a huge £45,000 fund-raising effort over three years.
Church warden Tony Rushbrook said the community had managed to raise £25,000 before they were awarded a grant for £6,000 from the Norwich Diocesan Association of Bell Ringers.
“We were still short about £13,000 but we managed to raise this in three days,” he said.
“People just put their hands in their pockets. I think people realised that the church had been there since Anglo Saxon times and wanted to see them restored for the future.”
The bells have all been given names of the saints (Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, Thomas the Apostle and Thomas the Martyr) and have been lovingly restored to their former glory.
The work, by Taylors of Loughborough, started in January last year and a large number of volunteers appeared each day to help the bell hangers - without all these willing volunteers the project would not have happened.
Mr Rushbrook said he even slept in the church for a night in the middle of January when the bells were taken down.
“They weren’t insured when they were down so I stayed there when it was minus 13 degrees just to be on the safe side,” he said.
“We knew one of them was badly cracked so that went off to specialists in Newmarket but then when we looked at the other bells we discovered that another one could have fallen down at any moment. It had a casting fault, which was created when it was first cast in 1755. It could have come down on my head any time.”
The bells were up and ringing again in May but Sunday sees them dedicated again, the first time for 250 years.
The ringing band of Foxley (all new ringers) have also been helped by several tutors along the way and have had more than 250 visitors coming to ring since the bells have been back. They now practise once a week on Wednesday evening, ring for services and welcome visiting tower bands each month.
One ringer, who has rung at all the towers in East Anglia, had tried to ring in Foxley in 1952 but couldn’t as the bells were unsafe so he came along to a practise in the summer having waited 61 years.
Sunday’s service will also be the last service held in Foxley by Rector David Head who is moving to another benefice. They hope to have a full congregation for the event.
The service will begin at 5.30pm, with ringing commencing from an hour before.