Cromer church’s ancient bells are lowered down and taken away for refurbishment

Cromer Parish Church bells being removed for restoration. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Cromer Parish Church bells being removed for restoration. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The loud chimes of Cromer's church bells have been helping the town keep time and celebrate weddings for more than 500 years.

But yesterday, the six giant bells in Norfolk's highest church tower were carefully removed and lowered gently down through the church tower's trap door down to the floor below.

The bells, including one which has been in the church for more than 500 years, are to be refurbished and joined by two new bells making a full octave.

And weighing more than half a tonne, the 635kg Victorian tenner bell is the heaviest and was the last to be manoeuvred down from the tower's dizzy heights.

Helping to operate the electric chains was fifth-generation bell ringer David Leeder, who has been ringing the bells at Cromer for 54 years.

The 74 year old, of West Street, is the longest standing member of the ringers and followed after his grandfather who died in 1917 in the First World War.

He said: 'I'll miss the bells being away but they won't be long - they'll soon be back.'

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Mr Leeder said he's looking forward to learning new bell-ringing methods once they're joined by the two new additions.

'It keeps us fit but we need some young ringers to carry it on.'

Bell ringer and steeple keeper Maureen Gardiner said the church's 1495 medieval bell is more graceful than its younger siblings.

It has been largely untouched since it was first installed, but the rest of the Church's original bells were sold in 1767 to help repair it's crumbling roof.

Dr Gardiner said: 'That is exactly as it was cast, it doesn't lose its tune.'

The newer bells, installed 140 years ago, will be tuned by scraping the inside to match the older bell, providing a truer replica of the original sound.

Churchgoer at Cromer Church for more than 40 years, Jane Sapwell, 66, of Holt Road, witnessed the operation.

She said: 'It's thrilling to be here to see this part of history.

'On the whole it is so rare to see the bells we hear so often - it's a special day.'

The bells will spend a week at bellhangers Whites of Appleton, in Oxfordshire, where new fittings will attached.

They will then be taken to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, makers of the five Victorian bells, where they will be re-tuned and joined by the two newly-cast bells.

The Church raised £60,000 to refurbish the bells through events and donations, and Dr Gardiner hopes the remaining £2,500 will be reached through an April book sale and a plant sale on May 5.

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