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Explained - the unusual noise shoppers in Ipswich will hear over Christmas weekend

PUBLISHED: 17:23 15 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:07 19 December 2019

Some of these bell ringers will be helping to create the festive noise on Saturday, December 21. Picture: KATHARINE SALTER

Some of these bell ringers will be helping to create the festive noise on Saturday, December 21. Picture: KATHARINE SALTER

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For anyone who has left their festive shopping until the very last weekend before Christmas, there will be some unusual music in your ears when walking around Ipswich.

Katharine Salter and her son with the bells at St Lawrence Church. Picture: KATHARINE SALTERKatharine Salter and her son with the bells at St Lawrence Church. Picture: KATHARINE SALTER

And that is because a sweet melody will ring out across Suffolk for a day of bell-ringing, which is part of a seasonal tradition in Suffolk's county town.

Katharine Salter is a bell-ringer and has been helping bring together volunteers together at the Suffolk Guild of Ringers for more than two decades now.

"The tradition has been going on for 26 years now," she said of the event on Saturday, December 21.

"Although you call it a tradition, we never meant for it to be that way.

Ipswich town centre will be awash with the sound of bells the weekend before Christmas  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich town centre will be awash with the sound of bells the weekend before Christmas Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"It started off just as something nice we did and you know how these things start - you do it once, then someone suggests you do it again next year, and suddenly it's an annual event."

Ms Salter and her son are part of a group of bell-ringers who take part in the ancient practice, even in years where most people may no longer know all that much about it.

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Often found in churches and cathedrals, many bells in Ipswich are not part of a church used for worship but are instead occupied by charities and community groups.

Katharine Salter painted the frame of the smallest bell in St Clements pink after a restoration. The bell itself was made in 1660. Picture: KATHARINE SALTERKatharine Salter painted the frame of the smallest bell in St Clements pink after a restoration. The bell itself was made in 1660. Picture: KATHARINE SALTER

St Stephens Church in the Ipswich town centre has bells which date back to 1395, whilst St Lawrence Church has the oldest ring of five bells in the world.

Bells were originally used as a show of wealth in medieval times, where towns who wanted to advertise their prosperity bought bells for their towers and churches.

Ms Salter said: "So that way, when you went to a town and could hear the bells ringing out, you would think: 'Oh, what a prosperous place this must be' and more people would be inclined to stay there."

The bells have frames which hold them up in the steeples and these frames become worn and need servicing often to keep them running.

Katharine Salter with with the smallest bell in St Lawrence Church. Picture: KATHARINE SALTERKatharine Salter with with the smallest bell in St Lawrence Church. Picture: KATHARINE SALTER

Ms Salter described the mechanisms as running much like a car. She also painted a recently restored frame in St Clement's Church bright pink for a bit of fun.

She added: "The bells will be more of a background noise, a soft ringing that shoppers will only hear when they are between shops and maybe look up to see what it is.

"I hope it will add to the Christmas spirit and maybe get people to question where it's coming from."

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