Project launched to awaken South Creake’s silent church bells

A £14,000 project is under way to install modern technology which could allow the five bells at St Mary’s church, South Creake, to be rung A £14,000 project is under way to install modern technology which could allow the five bells at St Mary’s church, South Creake, to be rung "full circle" for the first time in decades. Pictured: Parish priest Fr Clive Wylie in the now-silent bell loft of St. Mary’s.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
6:30 AM

A £14,000 project is under way to install modern technology which could allow the five bells at a village church near Fakenham to be rung “full circle” for the first time in decades.

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The bells at St Mary’s church in South Creake were cast in 1826 but the medieval wooden frame has become too fragile to take the strain of all of them swinging through a full 360 degrees.

No-one at the church knows when the bells were last rung full circle, but some believe it may have been before the second world war – although a single bell was rung until five years ago.

The parochial church council (PCC) plans to install an “Ellacombe” chiming system, consisting of a small box with five ropes enabling simple tunes to be rung by one person standing at ground level. The system can also be set to ring a bell automatically.

A fund-raising appeal for the £14,000 cost of the work began in November with a fine dining candle-lit supper run by chef Robert Macnaughton, which drew about 70 supporters to the church and raised more than £500.

Oliver Prince-White, fabric officer for St Mary’s, said it was important to raise the money for the work, because church bells play such an important part in village life.

“They help to celebrate weddings, call the congregation to worship every Sunday, mark funerals and national events,” he said.

“We think the last time the bells were rung in a full circle peal was towards the end of the 1930s but we would love to hear from anyone who live in the village then, or who has any record of the last team of bell-ringers to perform in the tower.

“Perhaps they were rung on VE day. When bells were sounded out all over the country did they ring in South Creake?”

The project will include installing lighting in the bell chamber and up the tight circular stairs in the tower.

London’s Whitechapel Foundry – which cast Big Ben and is the oldest bell foundry in the country – will be responsible for the work, which will also include re-hanging the treble bell and checking over the other four bells.

Parish priest Fr Clive Wylie said he hopes the completed installation of the new system will also allow an important tradition to be revived in the village.

“Before the village school closed, pupils would come at 12 noon and 6pm each day to ring the Angelus,” he said. “It is an important part of the tradition of the Anglo Catholic church.”

For hundreds of years, the Angelus would either draw parishioners to the church for a short service, or they could pause in their work for a moment of quiet meditation.

The PCC hopes the bells will be ringing out across the village again by the end of 2014, and is keen to involve the local community and other friends of the church in fund-raising events. An application for grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund is also planned.

Donations should be sent to the South Creake Restoration Fund, Morley’s Farm, Burnham Road, South Creake NR21 9JE.

1 comment

  • This article contradicts itself. First it says this will allow the bells to be rung 'full circle', then it says the frame is too weak to allow this. The Ellacombe apparatus referred to is not 'modern technology' it dates from the 19th century. This is not a criticism of the project to allow the bells to be sounded again, but please make the report accurate. Bells are usually rung 'full circle' ie through 360 degrees which needs one ringer per bell, and a frame and tower able to take this. If this is not possible, the bells remain still and a hammer strikes the bell and this can be done using an Ellacombe chiming system described here.

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    Sue Marsden

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014

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