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400 year old church bells removed from Campsea Ashe
Students from Eyke primary school, Suffolk, at Campsea Ashe church
Students from Eyke primary school answered questions on the bells

By Jon Wright
BBC Suffolk

For the first time in 400 years, the bells from St John's church in Campsea Ashe have seen the Suffolk sunshine.

Three of the four taken down from the tower are being restored and will eventually hang alongside three new bells which have recently been cast.

"It's a very moving experience seeing the molten bell metal being poured," said the Reverend Canon Harry Edwards.

The project has cost £120,000 and includes a new ringing gallery which has been built inside the tower.

The new bells are being made by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London.

Project co-ordinator Tim Holmes on the new ringing gallery at Campsea Ashe
Tim Holmes in the new ringing gallery at Campsea Ashe

"It's almost like seeing a child being born, watching a new bell being made - it's terribly exciting," said Mr Edwards.

Tim Holmes is the project co-ordinator for the church and feels the progress they've made is amazing.

The bulk of the cash has come from grants by Awards for All and the Heritage Lottery, but money has also come from the local community as well.

"We're almost there, we're two or three thousand short at the minute, but we are well in advance of our target," said Tim speaking on BBC Radio Suffolk's Sunday breakfast show.

"We were hoping to be finished in time for the London Olympics, now we'll be finished by the end of this year.

"It's incredible. We've been very fortunate with some of the grants we've applied for, but we've also been successful in encouraging people from the village to join in.

"One of the bells, the money has all come from people in the village, so that's £7,000 and we've named it the Village Bell, so that's for everyone."

The sound of the Christian message

Rev. Canon Harry Edwards and the three bells at Campsea Ashe
The Reverend Canon Harry Edwards saw the new bells being cast

The Reverend Canon Harry Edwards, has a history of restoring bells.

"Marlesford were restored in 1959. Since Harry's been here we've restored Hacheston in 2000, Parham in 2006 and now we're restoring Campsea Ashe," said David Clough, the tower captain at Hacheston.

"When bells are rung they send out the Christian message of love and hope to the community.

"The thing about bells is you don't have to come into the church to hear them.

"On a Sunday morning or at a wedding, the bells will send that message out, so if you can involve the community and particularly the youngsters, they might be the future ringers."

The bells will return to Campsea Ashe on the 4th October and will be installed in the tower ready for ringing by the end of the month.

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