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Bells' return ends a three-year silence

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: December 06, 2013

By Nicky Venning

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AFTER three years of silence a peal of ancient church bells will ring again.

The residents of Wookey, near Wells, have long known that their six church bells are historically important, with one cast in 1480.

This makes it one of the oldest working church bells in the country.

In 2010 disaster struck when a routine survey revealed that the important wooden bellframe in the church tower was unsound and needed expensive repairs.

"The £93,000 required for the restoration was a substantial amount for a small parish," said John Winstone, Wookey architect, who became involved with the project.

"We had started to fundraise in the parish, but after a great deal of hard work managed to obtain a large Heritage Lottery grant, which paid for a substantial part of the repairs," he said.

Steel bracing has been added to the original oak beams and where possible the bells themselves have been restored.

"The Church of England carefully supervises its ancient bells and only allowed the newer ones to be re-tuned," said John.

Conservation work on the bells and bell tower was undertaken by Strachey Conservation of Godney and Nicholson Bellhangers of Bridport.

The six restored bells were transported by lorry from Dorset and over a three-day period bellhangers Richard Farrant and Phil Dunnett manually winched each bell the 25 metres up into the belfry and on to the restored frame.

Retired Wookey cabinetmaker John Alcock is making a 1:10 scale, working model of the bellframe to show visitors to the church how the restored mechanism will work.

"The bells are due to be rung for the first time by Wookey tower captain Dr Aidan Ancill and his team, within the next few weeks and then we will know if all the hard work has paid off," said John.

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