Harting’s 230-year-old church bells have returned to the village after undergoing their first major repairs in over a century.
Despite the bells having been rung for some of the country’s major historic moments – including important royal occasions and at key moments during the two world wars of the 20th century – this is the first time since the early 1900s the bells have been taken down at St Mary and St Gabriel Church for repairs.
The six bells were taken to Nicholson Engineering in Bridport for the work, which included new headstocks and wheels being fitted. It was originally expected to cost £35,000, but the bill increased by £5,000 at the end of last year when the government scrapped VAT relief for listed places of worship.
The Friends of Harting Church raised the necessary money and a grant was also received from the Sussex Association of Bellringers.
Bellringer Humphrey Sladden was full of praise for the Friends of Harting Church for their fundraising which allowed the essential work to go ahead.
He said: “They have worked their socks off to raise the money for this work. The cost to the parish church has been zero pounds. No money has been used from church funds. The money has been raised through events such as the annual quiz and open gardens. The support these have received has been wonderful.
“We were advised in 1994 that the work was needed on the bells. The wheel bearings had got worn and that was causing friction.
“When the bells come back they will be much easier to ring as there won’t be such a frictional factor on the ropes any more. I hope the repairs will make it easier for new ringers to learn.”
The bells were cast in 1782 and it is believed the four bells which previously hung in the church were used in that process.
Unusually the bells are rung from the middle of the church rather than a bell tower and brides-to-be are rung into the church building as well as back out again after their marriage ceremony.
Now the bells are back home again a plea has gone out for new ringers to join the church’s small team of bellringers. Fellow bellringer Jo Gush said: “It’s very enjoyable and a good form of exercise. It’s great to learn a new skill and there is a great team spirit among the bellringers – they get on well as group.
“When we carry out our bellringing we are also on show in the centre of the church, right in front of the pews, so people can appreciate what we do.”
If you are interested in becoming a bellringer contact Jo Gush on 01730 825782.