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Work begins on restoration of historic Bishop's Stortford church bells



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The £300,000 refurbishment of St Michael's Church bells has begun.

Nine have been taken to Whites of Appleton in Oxfordshire, the oldest, continuously trading bell-hanging company in the UK having been founded in 1824.

They were put on display in the south aisle for visitors to view before they were taken out by the north door and loaded onto a flatbed lorry.

The bells ready for renovation this month (56662211)
The bells ready for renovation this month (56662211)

Their removal enabled building work to begin on the tower and bell chamber by Lodge and Sons Builders Ltd.

Seven of the nine will be retuned and returned to the Windhill place of worship along with six new bells which will be installed in the tower in August and September.

That means the campanologists at the 15th-century church will have a new ring of 12 bells with an additional sharp second bell to allow the front eight bells to be rung separately.

The last time the bells were removed in 1928 (56662213)
The last time the bells were removed in 1928 (56662213)

Two of the lightest bells cannot be retuned. They have been sold for use in another church while the oldest bell, dating from 1713, remains in St Michael's. It also cannot be retuned but is being retained because of its historical significance.

There have been bells in the tower since the early 1400s; records show there were five until a sixth was added in 1671. The present ring of 10 bells was installed in 1820 in the existing 1713 wooden frame after the tower and spire were rebuilt in 1819.

Since then, the only other work on the bells consisted of retuning in 1928. However, the tower is cracking because the two largest bells were hung against the weaker west wall and swung in a north/south direction, resulting in increased stress on the building.

The project will be completed when a metal walkway with handrails is installed to act as a viewing platform and the tower's clock is reconnected.

St Michaels Church, Bishops Stortford. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (56662226)
St Michaels Church, Bishops Stortford. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (56662226)


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