Hopes for historic bells suffer new blow

A PUBLIC appeal was today launched to enable Ipswich to once again be graced with the sound of some of the oldest bells in Christendom.

Grant Sherlock

A PUBLIC appeal was today launched to enable Ipswich to once again be graced with the sound of some of the oldest bells in Christendom.

A group of historians and church preservationists have launched a bid to raise the £50,000 necessary to return to use a set of five bells which would have been heard by a young Thomas Wolsey.

The appeal comes after the Heritage Lottery Fund snubbed an application by the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust (IHCT) for £40,000 to go toward the lowering of the historic bells at the newly revived St Lawrence's Church in Dial Lane.

The bells are said to be in perfect condition but cannot be used because of the poor condition of the tower they are housed in.

The oldest of the bells date back to 1450 and experts say together the five represent the oldest medieval full circle set of their type in the world. It had been hoped, with the HLF's assistance, Ipswich could once again hear the bells rung in time for Christmas.

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However the bid was turned down, leaving the trust needing £50,000 to secure the project.

Dr John Blatchly, IHCT chairman and a local historian, said: “The ring of five bells at St Lawrence's Church in Ipswich is the oldest anywhere in the world. Their nearest rivals are 50 years younger at St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, London.

“The bells have been silent for decades, because they are mounted near the top of the flimsy but handsome Victorian tower, which would sway dangerously if the five bells were to be rung in full circle.

“Our application, after careful consideration, has been turned down. The Heritage Lottery Fund has a restricted amount of money and St Lawrence's was up against much competition.”

Like the bells, St Lawrence's Church had been unused for a number of years. However a restoration project has seen it renovated into a multi-use community centre. It was the improvements to the church which led to the hope the bells could be lowered into a more secure part of the tower and used again.

Dr Blatchly said: “The trust is determined to have the bells lowered and made available to ringers.

“Applications are in hand to several grant making trusts.

“We feel that Ipswich and Suffolk people may like to have a stake in this unusual and exciting project.”

Ipswich Borough Council today said it was “very disappointed” the HLF had rejected the bid.

Donations can be sent to Dr John Blatchly, 11 Burlington Road, Ipswich, IP1 2HS, or James Hall, Birketts LLP, 24-26 Museum Street, Ipswich, IP1 1HZ. Cheques should be made out to Birketts LLP, the trust's solicitors.

Do you have a project worth supporting? Write to The Evening Star, Press House, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

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