Campsea Ashe: Bells a blessing for church after theft

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 June 2011

Tim Holmes with the new bells in the tower of Campsea Ashe church

Tim Holmes with the new bells in the tower of Campsea Ashe church


WHEN a gang of thieves stole a set of church bells from a factory, it was crushing news for villagers who had raised thousands of pounds to get them restored.

The cast iron bells were due to be hung at St John The Baptist Church at Campsea Ashe, near Wickham Market, when they were taken in a raid on a Dorset-based business in Septmber.

But, after an insurance pay-out, a new peal of bells were cast and they were hung at the church just before Christmas.

And, on Friday night, the Rt Rev Clive Young, the Bishop of Dunwich, led a special dedication service at the church to bless the bells. About 100 members of the congregation attended the service and listened to the sound of the bells ringing out across the village.

Three bells had been removed from the church last year for restoration and another three were made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London as part of the £120,000 project, which was boosted by significant fundraising from the village.

But project leaders were shocked by news of an organised raid on Nicholson Engineering Ltd in Bridport, Dorset, where the bells were waiting for some finishing touches.

The three new bells and an old bell, which dated back to 1729, were stolen. Overall, nine bells were taken during the raid and thieves also stole the pallets on which they sat. Police are still investigating.

Thankfully, the church had insured the bells and four new ones were made at the foundry, which were hung with entirely new fittings in a new frame installed in the upper part of the old ringing chamber.

Tim Holmes, Campsea Ashe church bell project co-ordinator, said: “Before 2010, the church possessed a peal of four bells.

“The bells had never been easy to ring, they were badly out of tune, and significant cracks to the tower were a further concern.

“We decided to create a somewhat lighter ring of six bells and hang them lower in the tower.

“It was very upsetting when the bells were stolen but people have been very supportive and encouraging.

“The old bells were quite awful but these ones are beautiful sounding. I guess it’s all’s well that ends well.”

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