Bells ring out at Starston to mark 70 years of pulling the ropes in Norfolk and Suffolk churches

Starston Festival of Bells. Bellringers Herbert and Julie Websdell with the Bishop of Norwich Graham

Starston Festival of Bells. Bellringers Herbert and Julie Websdell with the Bishop of Norwich Graham James and Rev Norman Steer. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

For centuries the peal of bells from churches across Norfolk and Suffolk has been a reassuring sound for people eager to be called to worship.

And for the last 70 years a Norfolk man has played his part in keeping that tradition alive on Sundays by calling people to worship by ringing church bells.

Herbert Websdell's role in keeping that tradition alive was recognised yesterday with a special service and festival of bells at Starston, near Harleston.

Mr Websdell, 83 and from Harleston, first started ringing church bells in the Diss area and still continues his duty at St Margaret's Church in Starston.

At yesterday's festival of bells service, which marked his 70 years, was the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. He told the congregation of about 100 people that bellringing was a very English and Welsh tradition with the bells of England uniting to call people to worship and that Mr Websdell was playing a significant role in keeping that tradition alive.

Paying tribute to Mr Websdell's

70 years of ringing, Bishop Graham said: 'It is an astonishing record of service.'

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Another tribute to Mr Websdell saw the six bells of the church fired 70 times.

Yesterday's celebrations featured the Starston Pealers handbell ringers, the Bellaires handbell team, Walland Express handbell demonstrations, the Suffolk Guild of Ringers and a Dickleburgh junior handbell team.

Mr Websdell, who has been ringing at St Mary's since the 1970s, has pulled the ropes at churches in Pulham St Mary, Redenhall, Fressingfield, Wingfield and Sradbroke.

He said: 'It does not seem like 70 years ago I took up bellringing.

'Not only do you exercise your muscles, you get to exercise your brain.

'It has been a lovely day and it was wonderful to see so many people in the church.'

The Rev Norman Steer, from Starston church, said it was absolutely wonderful to celebrate Mr Websdell's achievement and praised him for his dedication to the role.

Mr Websdell introduced his wife, Julie, to the traditional hobby and she has 47 years of experience behind her.

Anyone interested in joining the Starston church bellringers can attend the weekly practice sessions at the church on Wednesdays, 7-8pm, or call 01379 853967.

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