'We don't want to silence church bells'

OBJECTORS to a parish church's lengthy bell ringing sessions stressed yesterday they did not want to silence the bells completely.

Richard Smith

OBJECTORS to a parish church's lengthy bell ringing sessions stressed yesterday they did not want to silence the bells completely.

Householders living near St Peter and St Paul's Church in Aldeburgh said their only objection concerned a total of six hours of bell ringing in the year.

They say the three-hour afternoon peal on the second Sunday in June and July prevents them from enjoying their garden and entertaining family and visitors.

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The peal is held monthly throughout the year, apart from in August, and the complainants do not object to the other months because they are less likely to be in the garden.

The group of 20 objectors include long-established members of society in Aldeburgh, elderly people who have lived in the town for many years and members of St Peter and St Paul's congregation.

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They have taken exception to the way in which their appeal for finding an alternative to the two peals has been portrayed by the Church of England.

Objectors say it has been blown out of proportion and they were further angered when they discovered a petition had been launched by the church to keep the bells ringing.

The row erupted after objectors signed a letter highlighting their concerns about the lengthy peals. A complaint was made to the district council and the dispute has since escalated and attracted worldwide attention.

One complainant, who declined to be named, said: ''We are not trying to be difficult. The people who originally signed a letter did so in perfectly good faith.

''They were asking a reasonable question and it was not done to attract international interest.

''We feel it has been blown up out of all proportion instead of sitting down to discuss it in a civilised way to see if a compromise could be reached.

''The Sunday afternoons could be spent sitting in the garden, entertaining grandchildren or reading newspapers in peace. It is, after all, a day of rest.''

The church has printed leaflets highlighting the problem. They state: ''You may have seen on television, heard on radio or read in the press that there has been a complaint aimed at stopping our monthly peal attempt in the summer months.

''This would mean us having to stop ringing on the second Sunday of June and second Sunday of July. This would stop us ringing the Festival peal to welcome the Aldeburgh Festival.

''Bells have rung from our tower since the 14th Century. If you wish to support our bell ringers and keep the bells ringing please sign the petition in church or send us an email through our church website.''

Nigel Hartley, vicar of Aldeburgh and rural dean, said it would be expensive to add sound-proofing and a cheaper and more practical option would be for objectors to leave their garden.

Bell ringers come to Aldeburgh because, says Rev Hartley, the church has one of the top 10 towers in the county. The bell ringers say changing the time of the peal to a Sunday evening would inconvenience far more people and disrupt children's bedtime.

Meanwhile, the issue has been raised in the House of Commons. Tory MP Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) said some people were taking the Human Rights Act ''to extremes'' by complaining about the tolling of bells.

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