Upper Sheringham church bells ringing again
9 September 2020
Church bells are once again ringing out over the North Norfolk village of Upper Sheringham, following the completion of a two-year restoration project. Tony Rothe reports.
The six bells in All Saints Church in Upper Sheringham have now been restored and re-installed into the church tower with new wheels, frame, and fittings following a £90,000 restoration project.
The project stared in February 2018 when the PCC agreed to a full restoration and rehanging of the six derelict bells. The bells were retuned using modern tuning techniques, the canons removed, and then the bells rehung in a new frame with all new fixtures and fittings. In addition, it was agreed to install an electronically-operated chiming mechanism to ensure the bells can be rung even if there are no bell-ringers available.
There were originally 3 mediaeval bells hung in a large frame high in the tower (this historic empty frame remains in situ). The six current bells were cast in 1841, but it is believed that they haven’t been rung in the traditional manner since the 1930s. There was an old Ellacombe automated chime in the tower for many years, but this fell into disrepair and was removed when the toilet and kitchen were built. The new ringing gallery floor is where there used to be an earlier floor, possibly the original ringing chamber.
Nicholson Engineering were engaged as the bellhangers to carry out the work, assisted by local builder Malcolm Abbs, Jon Dorey (local joiner), Chris Copage (Carpenter), Alan Boardman (fabric officer at the time the project started), Ian Dent (clock), Steve Upton (volunteer) and Guy Morton who helped with all the associated administration work and fundraising as well as assisting with the removal of the bells.
Project manager Sue Morton said, “We are immensely grateful to them all, as well as all the personal donations we received from local residents and bell ringers from across the world, and all the grant providers – we couldn’t have done it without you!”
The project was delayed by lockdown, which was imposed just before the bells were due to return, and volunteers were not allowed to help with the eventual installation because of the social distancing guidelines, which added an unexpected cost to the project. Once the bells were in the church the Revd Frank Clarke, the Interim Priest-in Charge, performed a short blessing ceremony before they were hauled up into the new frame.
Sue said, “Imagine the excitement when churches started to lift restrictions on building works, and we were able to get things moving again. It all seemed to happen so quickly and smoothly then – the contractors worked like a well-oiled machine! Much to everyone’s delight, the bells finally rang out once more at the end of August.”
The final stage of the work will be a glass balustrade in the ringing chamber, dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Martin, one-time organist at Upper Sheringham. This is being manufactured and should be installed during the autumn. The balustrade will bear the inscription “We call, from tower and steeple, Upon the day of days, All faithful Christian people, To worship, prayer and praise” – a quotation from the hymn Unchanging God, often called the bell-ringers’ hymn.
It has not yet been possible to ring all six bells together, because of social distancing restrictions, but three of them have been rung for service a few times, in addition to using the chiming mechanism. Once all restrictions are lifted Sue and the team will be delighted to welcome visitors to practice nights on a Tuesday from 7.30pm to 9pm and very much look forward to introducing local residents to the delights of bell ringing.
A small dedication service led by the Right Revd Jonathan Meyrick, the Bishop of Lynn has been organised by Frank with limited attendees due to current restrictions. In due course there will be a large celebration of bells service when all the bells can be rung to which all donors will be invited.
If anyone would like to donate towards the extra costs incurred because of lockdown, please contact Sue Morton (01263 826078 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The photo at the top shows Sue and Guy Morton with the bells before they were re-installed in All Saints Church. The photos above show the belfry before and after the restoration of the bells.
All pictures are courtesy of Sue Morton.
This story originally appeared on Network Norfolk.