July 24 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
The bright medieval sound of Cromer Church bells, which has been missing for the past five months, will be heard once again as the bells return home this week.
The chimes returned to the town yesterday, and will be raised one-by-one though the tower to the 164ft-high belfry tomorrow.
The six bells, including one which has been in the church for more than 500 years, were taken away in January to be refurbished and were joined on their return by two new bells, making a full octave.
Steeplekeeper Maureen Gardiner said she had been missing the bells, and the town would soon hear the familiar hourly chime of the clock bell.
She said: “We are going to have to learn how to ring on eight, and with the new refurbished casts, effectively the bells have been lifted higher, so will be turning on a much tighter circle.
“I am very excited, it feels like they have been gone forever.”
Work will begin in the next week to fit the pulleys, ropes and rope guides which allow the bell-ringers to return and ring the traditional bells.
But with the largest bell weighing more than half a tonne, it will be a delicate job to heave the bells into the tower’s dizzy heights.
Dr Gardiner, along with other bellringers has been cleaning, polishing and preserving the tower ready for the return on the bells.
One of the new bells has been dedicated to the memory of bellhanger and bell-ringer Tony Baines, who died last year of cancer aged 73.
His family, including wife Betty, 68, of Diss, gathered to watch the homecoming of the new bell, which has been cast with a plaque to remember Mr Baines. Mrs Baines, who was made an MBE for her services to bell-ringing, said it had been an emotional experience.
Mrs Baines, who came yesterday with her two sons Mark and Kevin, grandchildren Aaron, Shaylen and Kieran and daughter-in-law Sharna, has been invited to perform in the bell’s first quarter peal.
She said: “Tony would have been thrilled to see the bell, it would have overwhelmed him.”
The bell was sponsored by Happisburgh bell-ringer Gilbert Larter, who had been a friend of Mr Baines’s and helped to prepare the Cromer tower for the return of its bells.
She said the 1495 medieval bell, which is subject to a preservation order, was more graceful than its younger siblings installed about 140 years ago.
The rest of the church’s original bells were sold in 1767 to help repair its crumbling roof.
And while the ancient bell remains unchanged, the newer Victorian bells have been re-tuned to match the original bell, producing a mellower sound.
Dr Gardiner said she hoped the bells would be ready for Sunday June 29, but was sure they would be completed for the festival of St Peter and St Paul, celebrated a week late.
The church raised £60,000 to refurbish the bells through events and donations.
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