Video: Bishop of Norwich helps ring in the changes at restored Saxlingham Nethergate church

The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Saxlingham Nethergate Church which has had the bells restored to the church tower.
The Bishop of Norwich Graham James held a service to bless the bells before they were rung for the first time. 
Pic shows Bishop Graham James ringing the bells. The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Saxlingham Nethergate Church which has had the bells restored to the church tower. The Bishop of Norwich Graham James held a service to bless the bells before they were rung for the first time. Pic shows Bishop Graham James ringing the bells.

Monday, January 27, 2014
6:30 AM

It took nine years of fundraising, a £100,000 grant from the National Lottery Fund and a generous bequest, but a community’s hard work has rung in the changes at a Norfolk church.

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And the Bishop of Norwich was at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Saxlingham Nethergate yesterday to bless and dedicate a new peal of bells in the restored and renovated tower at the Grade II-listed church.

After years of toil, work began early last year 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.

Geoff Blyth, churchwarden and fabric officer at the church, 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, the 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 was 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.”

The ringing of the new bells will form an integral part of the village’s commemoration of the First World War.

The previous bells were last restored in 1908-1910 and to celebrate that restoration a Peal of Bob Major was rung on October 14, 1910 by eight young men from the village who went on to serve their country in The Great War.

One of those eight men - Alfred Funnell - died on the Somme on September 4, 1916 and, on that date this year, the team of bell-ringers will ring the same Peal of Bob Major which rung out more than a century ago.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “It’s wonderful that this grant 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.”

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.

• Are you working to protect part of the region’s heritage? Tell us about it by calling reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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