Community raises £60,000 to fund historic church bell repairs

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mary Stanley

People living in a Hampshire village have raised £60,000 to fund repairs to their local church bells after they were deemed unsafe to ring.  

The bells at St Mary's in Newton Valence near Alton have not been refurbished since 1871.

They need to be sent away for the work but removing them from the church tower is no easy feat, it is a heavy and dirty job for the team of experts and volunteers.

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The bells have rung for centuries, during services and celebrations, and have provided a soundtrack to historic moments, ringing out for events such as the end of World War Two and the new millennium.

The bells have had to fall silent because of their poor state, with their frame also being attacked by woodworm. Added to this is a shortage of bell ringers.

The bells will be cleaned, retuned, given new fittings and rehung back in the tower. A sixth bell will also be added to the peal.

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Roger Barber, Bellringer said: "What I've been told by a number of people is that they miss the sound of the bells.

"When they hear the clock striking it reminds them that there's not just one bell up there but there are five bells up there.

"They don't get them rung on a Sunday service because we are short of ringers in the first place, but the bells become dangerous and unringable and nothing is going to happen until it gets done.

"They're very fond of church in Newton Valence. I've been coming here for four decades on and off and it's always been the case that they are prepared to spend the money when it needs it.

"They could quite easily leave them in the tower and everyone would forget about them and that would be a great shame.

"I think they are a big part of our heritage in this country and we should look after them."

The newly refurbished bells are due back in the church at Easter 2022. 

It is hoped a new team of bell ringers can be trained up to ensure they can ring out again in all their glory.