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Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 16:51 UK
Millennium bells need salvation
Jon Wright, BBC Suffolk
By Jon Wright
BBC Suffolk

Diagram of bell at Campsea Ashe church
The project will increase the number of bells from four to six

A Suffolk village church has nearly raised enough money to save its 17th Century bells which, it's feared, could become 'un-ringable'.

£120,000 has been collected from funding bodies and local events in Campsea Ashe near Wickham Market.

Three of the four original bells are being restored, while three new ones are being cast.

The set of six will be housed in a new gallery and they should be ready in time for Christmas 2010.

The campaign to restore the bells is being co-ordinated by Tim Holmes.

"The oldest one dates back to 1601, so there's quite a bit of the village heritage in the tower," he said.

"A few years ago we had problems with one of the bells and we were advised that if we didn't do something with them, they'd become un-ringable and the sound of the bells wouldn't be heard over the village ever again."

The new set of six bells will be positioned lower down the tower at St John the Baptist in a new frame.

Campsea Ashe church

The tenor bell will be retuned and kept in the existing frame as a service bell.

They'll also create a new ringing gallery and a community room inside the base of the tower which will be used to show off the village's history.

Bringing people together

The Reverend Canon Harry Edwards is the rector at Campsea Ashe and he's also the vice president of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers.

He was responsible for originally restoring the four bells for the new millennium after 50 years of silence.

"It was wonderful when they rung out that day for the first time in such a long time," he said.

"The bells are the voice of the village. Since the project started it has brought people here together.

"They also speak of things eternal and point to things beyond the temporary and the everyday."

Glenys Fear, who's been ringing the bells since the 1999 restoration, said: "Hopefully it lets people in the village know the church is here and it's alive and that was the original idea of them - to call people to worship."

The project will cost around £120,000, which will be raised via a range of small grants.

Tim Holmes at St John the Baptist church, Campsea Ashe
Tim Holmes says the new ringing gallery will be visible from the nave

Tim Holmes said: "We've also got a tremendous amount of support from the village.

"They've rallied together and have sponsored one of the new bells to be cast.

"They've raised £6000 through jumble sales and all sorts of events so they've all really pulled together."

However, the fundraising isn't finished. Another £30,000 is still needed to be able to complete the job.

Work will get underway anyway and it's expected to start in October 2009 with the new set of six bells ready to ring for Christmas 2010.

Find out more about the fundraising effort by visiting the Campsea Ashe church website.

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