Gallery: Fond farewell to Bacton couple who helped to restore church’s bells

The organ at St Mary's Church in Bacton is in the process of being refurbished. Dr Peter Franks (cen

The organ at St Mary's Church in Bacton is in the process of being refurbished. Dr Peter Franks (centre) is pictured with the bellringers who rang to mark the occasion. - Credit: Archant

Bells have rung out in thanks to a couple who helped to restore them at a church where they were active members for decades.

The village of Bacton came alive one December weekday morning to the sounds of the bells at St Mary’s Church being struck in recognition of Peter and Sheila Franks’ work.

On the day the church’s organ, which is currently undergoing major restoration work, was also played for the couple, who have been residents of the village near Stowmarket for around 50 years but are now moving to pastures new.

They have both been bell ringers at the church, with Dr Franks also fulfilling the role of organist for many years. One of the bell ringers, Winston Girling, said: “By 1972 the bells at the church and their fittings were in a poor state, and in particular the ancient wooden bell frame was in need of replacement.

“Peter and Sheila had been aware of this for some years previously and they, together with Bill Stannard were responsible for organising major restoration work on the bells and bell frame.

“And 1972 saw the culmination of this work by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry from London, who installed a new steel frame at a lower level in the tower, added an additional bell to make six in all, and hung the new bell together with the restored old five in the new frame.

“Bill Stannard was responsible for teaching a local band of ringers to ring on the church handbells, and Sheila taught them to handle a tower bell and ultimately formed a local band to ensure that the bells could be rung when required. Sheila also became tower captain and held this post until very recently.”

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In 1973 the bells were rung, by people including the Franks, for almost three hours after the restoration work was carried out.

Dr Franks, who worked at a local medical practice, is moving with his wife to Ardleigh, in Essex, to be closer to their two sons.

Organ builder Peter Bumstead played in the church as part of the couple’s farewell.