Work on the bells restoration project at St Mary’s Church will begin later this month. Scaffolders will start work on 15th January and the bells should come down five days later. Restoring the bells and bell frame is expected to take four months. The work is being carried out by Whites of Appleton, one of the few restorers of bells in the country.
Leading the project is Julie Sargent from Little Wittenham, who said that all the work will be done under strict Covid-19 guidelines. She said: “Unfortunately, it means that we cannot invite people to see the bells when they come down, but we will keep a photographic record.”
“The support of the village has been vital in enabling this project to happen and we look forward to being able to ring the bells again for everyone to hear, and begin a new ringers recruitment campaign.”
The original estimate for restoring the six bells was £37,000 but costs have risen as Covid-19 regulations mean that local volunteers can no longer be used for some of the work. The bell frame is now being cleaned and painted by a professional company which incurs high costs. The addition of guide ropes is another cost that had not been included in the original estimate.
Five bells were first hung in the 12th century church in 1765 and a sixth was added in 1923. However, the bells were heavy and difficult to ring and were at risk of becoming dangerous unless they were repaired and restored.