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Help keep Beccles bells ringing

PUBLISHED: 12:19 23 December 2010

A COMPANY of bellringers is appealing for people to help make their Christmas wish come true.

For hundreds of years the beautiful sound of the church bells in Beccles has pealed out across the marshlands of the Waveney Valley.

The 10 bells that hang in the church tower at St Michael’s were last re-hung a century ago yet still produce a pure and joyful sound.

But the Beccles Company of Ringers has been advised by experts that work is necessary to preserve the bells in good order for another 100 years.

Over the last few months the company has been fundraising in a bid to raise £40,000 to carry out repair works.

Group member Helen Gale said local people had rallied round and so far nearly £10,000 has been raised through donations and promises.

But she said more funds are needed to reach their target and appealed for people to dig deep.

“The bells are part of our heritage,” she said. “There have been bells in that tower since it was built.

“There were five originally in the 1500s, then eight bells and in 1909 they made a ring of 10 bells. The three earliest date back to 1762.”

“I have received letters with donations from people saying how much they like the bells and they feel it is important to keep them going.

“We are really grateful to all the people who have sent in donations from little amounts to one or two quite big amounts.”

Mrs Gale added: “The bearings have got to be done.

“The old bearings through use have gone from being round to almost oval-shaped and slip sideways.”

She said the planned repair works would save on future maintenance.

Mrs Gale is applying for grants and said that fundraising events so far included coffee mornings and a skittles evening.

The company has also put leaflets through the doors of people’s homes appealing for help.

Mrs Gale said the group is planning a concert in the spring and also invited anyone who is interested in ringing the bells to get in touch.

Tuition will be given and people of all ages are welcome to give it a try.

The tower, which stands separately from the church, is owned by Waveney District Council, which bought it for 1p in the 1970s after it was declared redundant.

Over the last century the bells, the oldest dating back to 1762 and the youngest dating to 1909, have only had minor repairs for wear and tear.

The bells were last re-hung in 1909 when the wooden frame from which the bells hang was replaced with a steel frame.

To donate to the appeal cheques should be made payable to Beccles Bells Restoration Fund and can be sent to Mrs Gale at 14 Welbourne Way, Barnby, Suffolk, NR34 7QX. Alternatively Mrs Gale can be contacted on 01502 476738 or email helen@hgale.wanadoo.co.uk

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