THERE haven’t been bell ringers at St Michael’s Church, Michaelchurch Escley, since the 1980s when visiting teams from all over the country would come and give the old bells a go.

“The message was they’re unringable,” said churchwarden Major Antony Egremont-Lee.

Not to be deterred the parish council set about the long task of raising the £23,500 to restore the five existing bells and, as there was sufficient room, to have a new one made into the bargain.

“A six-bell peal is much more fulfilling,” said the major. “It is easier to ring a peal of six bells and it is a much better sound.

“We expect that this will attract teams from across the country to ring at St Michael’s which will put our church firmly on the ringing map.”

The £7,500 cost of the new memorial bell has been primarily funded by private donations in memory of those who lost their lives in the wars, to create the village’s first and only war memorial. The new bell was cast in Italy, while the five existing bells were restored at a Somerset foundry.

Money came in from the Heritage Lottery Fund, local people and church funds.

“Three times we failed to get money from the Heritage Lottery Fund,” said Major Egremont-Lee, who is now chuffed to see his eight-year project come to fruition. “It’s been a long, long time, which makes it all the more worthwhile,” he said.

Thwarted by weather at the 11th hour, the journey to collect the bells from Somerset was delayed by the recent snowfall.

But the bells are finally hoisted to their new home, where they will not be seen again for many years to come.

A service of dedication will be held this Saturday to celebrate their arrival following which St Michael’s will participate in the national ringing event which is scheduled to take place at 11am on November 11 to commemorate the Armistice.

As well as the fundraising campaign, Major Egremont-Lee has been busy recruiting a new team of bell-ringers for the parish of which he includes himself as being happily the worst. His grandson, Louis, is the youngest member of the new team.

“We hope to start a new tradition of chiming the memorial bell 26 times on Armistice Day,” he said. “One for each life lost on the roll of honour for the village and one for all the other millions of lives lost.”

Anyone interested in joining the bell ringers should contact the church office.