Fine dining in St Mary’s Parish Church in South Creake at the beginning of November has helped kick off a £14,000 appeal for the peals.
The aim is to once again bring alive the sound of the five church bells, which have been silent for the past five years.
Some seventy diners sat down to a three-course candle-lit supper in a pop-up restaurant, run by chef, Robert Macnaughton which raised over £500 for the appeal.
The bells were cast in 1826 by William Dobson, of Downham, but the medieval wooden frame is now too fragile to allow the bells to be rung full circle.
“We think the last time the bells were rung in a full circle peal was towards the end of the 1930s but we would love to hear from anyone who lives in the village then or who has any record of the last team of bell-ringers to perform in the tower,” said Oliver Prince-White, fabric officer for St Mary’s.
“Perhaps they were rung on VE day. When bells were sounded out all over the country did they ring in South Creake?”
Since the 1930s it is believed that the bells have only been clocked or chimed individually. This has weakened them to an extent that there was a danger they could crack and so for some years have been silent. The frame is also no longer strong enough to take the strain of the bells swinging full circle whilst the bell fittings also need renovating.
Mr Prince-White emphasised that it was important the work be done because church bells play an important part of the life of any village. “They help to celebrate weddings, call the congregation to worship every Sunday, mark funerals and national events.”
The Parochial Church Council plan to install an Ellacombe chiming system consisting of a small box with five ropes enabling simple tunes to be rung by one person standing at ground level. The system can also be set to ring a bell automatically.
“Before the village school closed pupils would come at noon and 6 pm each day to ring the Angelus,” said parish priest, Fr Clive Wylie. “It is an important part of the tradition of the Anglo Catholic church.” The new system will enable the tradition to be revived.
For hundreds of years the Angelus would either draw parishioners to the church for a short service, or they could pause in their work for a moment of quiet meditation.
The work will also include installing lighting in the bell chamber and up the well-worn, tight circular stairs in the tower.
London’s Whitechapel Foundry the oldest and one of only two bell foundries in the country – will be responsible for the work which will also include re-hanging the treble bell and checking over the other four bells.
Apart from a range of fundraising events it is planned to seek grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The parochial church council is also keen to involve the local community and other friends of the church to help raise funds. Donations should be sent to the South Creake Restoration Fund, Morley’s Farm, Burnham Road, South Creake NR21 9JE.
The church council hopes that by the end of 2014 the bells will be ringing out across the village once more.