The Story So Far …

Atherington is a small rural community with a population of only around 250 and since just before the millennium we have been trying to restore our lovely peal of six bells. So far, over £20,000 has been raised from parishioners and friends for the restoration of the bells and a new bell-frame but the tower needs substantial work before the bells can be re-hung. The restored bells and the new bell-frame are back and ready to go into the tower when the necessary work to repair and strengthen it has been completed.

The church in Atherington is a significant ancient building and a peal of bells is a part of country living to be cherished and preserved. Bell-ringing itself is an activity that is accessible to all ages and types of people, providing a focus for many individuals and exercise for both mind and body. Bell-ringers around the country share a strong sense of community amongst themselves and are always welcome in each others’ towers! This is a part of our heritage that we should really be making every effort to preserve.

The community has pulled out all the stops to get to this point and now we need to ask for your help. The original target of £75,000 (based on estimates from the architect, Jonathan Rhind) seemed almost impossible for this small community but so far £6,000 has been raised in donations from charities. This is in addition to the £20,000 already spent on the bells.

An anonymous donor has now promised up to £40,000 as match funding or as a loan. This very generous offer is a massive incentive for the community to push hard to complete the Appeal. It is hoped to put the work out to tender later this year. Every year the work is delayed means an increase in the cost and this in itself could jeopardise the project.

Main project since 2000

Phase 1: Removal of 5 of the 6 bells (the 6th was too big to get through the trap!) together with the bellframe, by bellhangers Taylor, Eayre and Smith, transported to their workshops, renovated and returned. The bells are now in the church and the new frame is in a local farmer’s barn.

Phase 2: Continuous fundraising towards repairing and strengthening the church tower and rehanging the bells. Total costs for this phase are estimated at £96,000, of which we have so far raised £35,000.

Update, September 2012

We celebrated the completion of our Bells Restoration project at a church thanksgiving service at St Mary’s in June 2010.

Photograph of supplier's certificate

© David Gosden

During the service the Bishop of Crediton consecrated the six bells (show photograph) and after the service they were rung again by a team of ringers (show photograph) from High Bickington and Atherington.

You can also read an account of the consecration as printed in the Atherington Argus.

The total cost of the project, nearly £106,000, was raised by grants, loans and local fund-raising. There is just over £500 left in the bank account and we are continuing to raise funds to pay off the balance of the loans.

It is hoped that the Friends will continue to raise funds to help preserve the fabric of our village church and any further donations will be gratefully received. To this end we are holding a ‘Starters and Puddings’ party at Ashley Manor on 11 October 2012. Gift Aid forms and further information about the charity’s finances are available from the Treasurer, Mr. David Large, Ashley Manor, Atherington, EX37 9HW (560556).

Update, May 2010

Well we have finally made it and the bells are going to be rung after the Bishop rededicates them at a short service on Monday 7 June.

10 years ago, when we started our bell restoration project, I don’t believe we thought we would really be able to complete what has turned out to be a long and costly (over £100,000) journey.

We certainly had the faith to begin and I truly believe God has been with us, encouraging and bringing the right people to support us. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped: Atherington community itself, the bellringing fraternity throughout Devon, several charities and several folks who have made substantial grants and loans (still to be repaid nearly £11,000).

Carreks the builders completed a very difficult job in strengthening the tower and the bellhangers, Taylors, have really done a great job, in trying circumstances!

Please come and join us for tea in church on Monday 7 June from 5.15 p.m. before the service and BELLS RINGING AGAIN after 25+ years.

Update, February 2010

We are almost there

The bellhanger from John Taylor & Co. (Paul Mason) was with us for the last nine days towards the end of January and worked hard, with local helpers (John Down, Martin Chambers, Chris and Anthony Hart, John Carvosso to name but a few … and help from Carrek’s the builders in their spare time).

There were a few little setbacks (design faults from the original bellhangers, Eayre & Smith), the necessity to rebore some of the headstocks plus a little hiccup with the Tenor) but the bells are all installed and have been rung briefly. Folks in the village said they sounded great … a sweet little peal!

On Monday 7 June 2010 Bishop Bob of Crediton is coming to join us for the ‘celebrations’ to mark the end of our long 10 year project. After short, informal refreshments at 5.30 p.m., he will consecrate the bells at a short service beginning at 6.00 p.m. Do come and join us if you can. Steve Herniman, the bellcaptain at High Bickington, is getting a local team to ring before the service. If you live locally and would like to learn to ring, or are already a ringer, please ring Steve on 01769 560013. After the service, Bishop Bob will be continuing on to Newton Tracey to dedicate their refurbished church – ring The Rev. Kim Mathers (01271 858292) for further details.

The last three bills to pay (Taylors, Carreks and Jonathan Rhind) should be settled by the end of February and are expected to be around £6000. We are still fundraising, so this and the £6000 loans which need repaying means another big effort. There is £4000 promised and we are still waiting to hear back from two charities. Please do help further, if you can, especially by becoming a ‘Friend’.

The winner of the ‘jar of copper coins’ will be announced by mid-February, so there is still time to have your guess (30p for one guess, £1 for five guesses); the jar is at Holywell school for children and parents’ guesses.

Update, November 2009

We have just had the first open day for the builders/architect to show us how things are progressing. The work is going well and Carrek’s, our builders, are hoping that they will finish, as planned, by the end of November. Taylors arrived on 23 November to fit the new frame ready for rehanging the bells. This will take a couple of weeks and then the tower needs to have 5/6 months ‘solidification’ before the bells are rung again. On the fundraising front we have been very encouraged by all the support from fellow bellringers across Devon; so far 30 towers have sent donations (over 1,500 total). There is only another £17,500 to go and we are currently trying, with help from the PCC, to ask folks to become Friends (annual membership £5, life membership £50).

Update, October 2009

The tower strengthening work, by builders Carrek’s, is well under way (started 10 August) and we will all have an opportunity to see their progress at an open day on Thursday 8 October; the tower will be open between 4.00 and 6.00 p.m. Taylor, Eayre and Smith will be coming in November to fit the new bellframe and this whole phase 2 is due to be completed by 23 November. Then the tower has to ‘settle’ for a few months before Taylor, Eayre and Smith return, probably around late April/early May, to rehang the bells.

We have been so encouraged to receive over £1,300 so far from many fellow bell teams across Exeter diocese. In July we wrote to all the towers with ringable peals in the diocese – just under 400 – and many have already sent us their gifts and good wishes. There is only another £18,500 to raise! Our current bank balances are just over £40,000 and we have just made the first payment to Carrek’s.

Would you consider joining our ‘Friends’ if you aren’t already a member? The annual subscription is £5 and you can become a life member for £50. If you pay tax and register for Gift Aid we can reclaim 22p in the pound of each gift from the Inland Revenue.

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