Noise row church bells could be silenced

THE church bells have rung in Aldeburgh for hundreds of years to call the town to worship.But today they are in danger of being silenced after residents complained they were disturbing their Sunday afternoons in the summer.

Richard Smith

THE church bells have rung in Aldeburgh for hundreds of years to call the town to worship.

But today they are in danger of being silenced after residents complained they were disturbing their Sunday afternoons in the summer.

Some residents claim the bells are too loud and want a three-hour peal, performed on the second Sunday of the month, stopped during the summer.


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However, Rev Nigel Hartley, vicar of Aldeburgh, warned this could have repercussions for 5,000 churches across the land which regularly play bells and he said the current bell-ringing routine had been used for 20 years without a problem.

Suffolk Coastal's environmental health team have been asked to monitor the noise and a petition has been launched urging the church to give residents a respite.

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One complainant, Jenny Hunt, said yesterday: “There are a few of us who live close to the church in Aldeburgh who do have trouble with the peal that is run on the second Sunday of every month.

“This goes on for three hours non-stop and it is impossible to sit in our gardens during these sessions owing to the noise which eventually begins to affect our hearing.

“All we have requested is that the bell peals are not rung in June and July in order that we can enjoy our gardens. That is all. In the winter it is not a problem because we are inside.”

In June, the peal has a special significance because it heralds the start of the internationally famous Aldeburgh Festival.

In July, there are thousands of visitors thronging the resort and, according to Mr Hartley, they love the sound of the bells.

He said: “The bells in our tower date back at least 500 years. A dedicated band of ringers practises each Monday evening and once a month, on the second Sunday, they ring an extended peal, which takes about three hours to complete. For expert bell-ringers it is the nearest they get to a concert performance.

“The history and heritage seems to make no difference as far as the law is concerned, nor it would seem that the petitioner chose to buy a house next to the church knowing that the church has a fine ring of bells.

“It may seem silly that someone can move into a town knowing all this and yet may have more rights than the 200 worshippers who fill the church each Sunday.

“What would happen if someone bought a house close to Portman Road football stadium. Would they, on the same grounds of finding it a nuisance, be able to silence the crowds at every home game?”

He added: “I have no idea what the outcome to this will be. Ultimately I guess it will be up to the environmental health officers if they wish to take action.”

Sally Jones, an Aldeburgh town councillor who lives in Alde House Drive, close to the church, said: ''I do not find the bells disturbing. You hear the church bells and it is a nice sound to hear on a nice day when you are sitting in the garden.

“If you buy a house next to the church then you have to expect to hear the bells, it is just one of those things.”

A Suffolk Coastal District Council spokesman said: “While Suffolk Coastal has received a call from a local resident about the bells at St Peter and St Paul's Church at Aldeburgh, we have not yet received a petition.

“This is a matter which we hope can be resolved between the local Aldeburgh community, and we have been trying to help those discussions towards a successful resolution without it becoming a formal investigation.”

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