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Lottery funds church bell restoration

PUBLISHED: 09:42 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:00 01 August 2010

HISTORIC bells at a Suffolk church that were silenced for 15 years could be heard again by villagers before the year is out.

Yesterday, February 24, six years to the day after a bells committee for St Andrew's Church in Wissett was formed, the announcement was made that lottery funding for restoration had been secured.

HISTORIC bells at Wissett Parish Church, silent for 15 years, could be heard again by villagers before the year is out.

On Tuesday, six years to the day after a bells committee for St Andrew's Church was formed, the announcement was made that lottery funding for restoration had been secured.

The project to re-hang the peal of six bells has attracted £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund - almost half of the £106,000 needed for the work.

With £35,000 already banked from fundraising and donations and the remainder made up by other grants, the rector of Blyth Valley team ministry the Rev Edward Rennard said he was delighted with the decision.

“It's wonderful news,” he said. “The people of Wissett have worked extremely hard for six years to make this possible and the Heritage Lottery grant has made certain it can go ahead. It has been very much a village effort - so many people have got involved.”

With work due to start this summer, he said he hoped the bells would be installed by St Andrew's Day on November 30. The money will also go towards publishing a new, updated church guide book.

During the application process experts from English Heritage used carbon dating to discover that the floor timbers in the flint bell tower date back to between 1095 and 1145. Results of a detailed archaeological survey being undertaken are expected to confirm the tower is the only one in the UK known to have timbers surviving from the date of the tower's construction.

Chairman of Wissett's bells committee Anne Andrews said: “Managing a project of such complexity has stretched the imagination of many national experts and I believe the solution found will not only preserve much

of the ancient timbers but allow

the 500-year history of bell ringing in the parish to continue into the next millennium and beyond.”

Retired civil engineer Roy Stoddard, who prepared the application, said ringing was

stopped when the 16th century frame on which the bells hung became loose.

The movement of the bells would move the frame, causing damage to the tower and making it unsafe.

The frame parts which cannot be retained will go to the village's tiny museum to be replaced with a steel frame, while the bells, the oldest of which is dated to 1350-90, will be reinstalled.

Blyth Valley team ringers currently able to ring from nearby Halesworth, Bramfield and Wenhaston, will soon add the churches at Wissett and Chediston to their list, along with new ringers inspired by the restoration project who have started training.

The lottery funding announcement was made at the church's traditional Shrove Tuesday “clipping” service on Tuesday evening, a revived medieval tradition in which the congregation shows its care for the building by encircling it with linked arms.

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