Fakenham continues its fundraising activities to ‘save the bell’ at school

Fakenham Junior School's Get Well Bell appeal to refurbish an old bell and Tower at the school. 
The Bell and Tower in need of urgent repair
Fakenham Junior School's Get Well Bell appeal to refurbish an old bell and Tower at the school. The Bell and Tower in need of urgent repair

Wensum, by Jim Harding, Tuesday, April 25

Whilst we can anticipate a return of the church chimes quite soon it could be more than six months before the school’s bell tower and its solitary bell are repaired.

When I attended the Easter Monday race meeting here it was pleasing to see a cheque for £1500 from the racecourse being handed over to Adam Mason, head of the school, as a contribution towards the Get Well Bell fund.

The local support for this campaign has been amazingwith more than £13,000 raised so far. Even better news is the fact that a consortium of town businesses has got together and committed themselves to carrying out the work required, quoting a very competitive price.

It includes AOT Engineering who were responsible for constructing the metal railings along the school frontage which illustrate the history over the place over the past century.

I love the fact that the bell-ringing tradition, which I believe was begun on the opening of the school way back in 1913, is regarded locally with such affection.

As you may well know, pupils have been greeting the start of each day by pulling the rope in the main corridor which is attached to the bell above.

It is rung again at lunch times. My middle son reminded me that he had been proud to perform this task on occasion back in the 1990s.

School business manager Karen Rodgers is clearly delighted with the response to the challenge which has engendered so much community involvement.

This must be partly due to the fact that lots of residents who grew up here and stayed put rather than moving away cherish the memory of the bell and would hate to see it abandoned.

Word has it that preliminary work on removing the bell tower and its occupant could occur some time during this summer’s holiday period.

In the meantime, fund-raising activities will continue apace, some of them organised by the pupils themselves.

When the school’s 100 th anniversary took place in 2013 a flag-raising ceremony in the grounds was performed by Michael Palin whose grandfather had attended the school in its earliest days.

I have no doubt that the Monty Python legend would be as pleased as anyone to learn of the town’s efforts to ‘save the bell’.

The recent death of Michael Fanthorpe brought back many memories for me. His barbers shop on Norwich Street was a popular place and I often sat in the chair there to be regaled by him with tales of town council goings-on in Dereham – where he had served as mayor on three occasions – and politics in general.

We shared a mutual interest in medieval history and it impressed me that in his seventies he took on a part-time degree at UEA which included landscape archaeology, a subject I had studied there back in the 1980s.

This was some challenge for Michael and I was happy to support his endeavour by lending him some of my essays. I never did find out if he finally got his degree but sincerely hope he did.

The funeral will be held at St Nicholas church inDereham on Friday, May 12 at 2.30pm, followed by burial at the town’s old cemetery. Mmourners are requested to dress in bright colours.

Fakenham Classic Music is bringing the folk quartet Daisy’s Cat to Hempton Memorial Hall on May 1, featuring guitarist, singer and song writer Tom Thompson, singer and fiddle player Sarah O’Neill, accordion and whistle player Moto Hewitt and bass guitarist John Lawson.