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Sweet peal of success for Suffolk bells

PUBLISHED: 04:00 19 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:41 03 March 2010

THE message has rung out loud and clear.

A fundraising appeal to make safety improvements to a set of world famous church bells in East Bergholt has raised a tremendous £7,000 in just four weeks.

THE message has rung out loud and clear.

A fundraising appeal to make safety improvements to a set of world famous church bells in East Bergholt has raised a tremendous £7,000 in just four weeks.

The bells of St Mary the Virgin in the heart of Constable Country have been silent for two years following an accident in which East Bergholt bell ringer Barry Blomfield crushed his hand.

But delighted campaigners said today that thanks to an outstanding response to the Peal Appeal they were on target to see the bells back in action by Christmas.

"It's a great beginning," said Reverend Sharon Swain, rector of East Bergholt and Bramford and chairwoman of the bell cage fundraising committee.

"The money has come in ranging from £5 to £1,000, and it comes in everyday."

A special website giving information on the campaign, which needs to raise £35,000 to pay for extensive safety improvements to the bell cage, has been set up and includes a video of the bells being in action.

Villagers have been approached for donations and fundraisers are also appealing to a number of trusts for financial aid. East Bergholt Parish Council, the parochial church council and the church preservation society has also promised help.

Although other bell cages on the ground exist, the one in East Bergholt is the only place where the bells are swung by pure force of hand applied directly to a wooden headstock and not by rope and wheel.

They are also the heaviest set of five bells that are currently being rung in England, with a total weight of 4.25 tons.

Safety improvements began in mid September and will include widening the ramp that the bell ringers stand on, increasing the gap between the headstock and frame and improving access to the tenor bell.

Each bell will be fitted with a lock and a new bell ringers' training handbook will also be introduced.

"Obviously after an accident like that we want to review procedures, we are tightening up on everything," added Rev Swain.

A prohibition notice, placed on the bells by Babergh District Council, will be lifted once the safety modifications are complete. Church authorities and insures have also agreed that the bells can be rung again.

If all goes according to plan bell ringing will start again around Christmas and a special open day is being planned for New Year's Day which will include a bell ringing demonstration and exhibition.

Donations, payable to EBPCC Peal Appeal, can be sent to East Bergholt post office, Colchester CO7 6TA or can be made via the internet at www.eastbergholt-bells.org.uk.

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