The bells of an East Hampshire church have broken their three-year silence for the King as a £67,000 project has reached a joyful conclusion.
The hills around Hawkley haven’t been alive with the sound of music in recent times as the bells haven’t tolled at St Peter & St Paul.
But that silence was broken last weekend as a major project to restore and re-hang the nine bells was finished just in time for the coronation.
The bells sounded terrific as they rang out for 45 minutes on the Sunday after the coronation in recognition of King Charles III.
The ringing was music to the ears of Reverend Peter Sutton, Bell Tower Captain Roger Barber and everyone connected with the picturesque village church.
The event has been a long time coming as the project began before the pandemic while the bells were last lowered in 1949.
The original plan was to lower three bells as some maintenance was needed, but the PCC decided it would make more sense to lower all eight for restoration and repairs.
And although the costs increased by six-fold the investment has paid dividends with villagers happy to answer the fundraising prayers.
Churchwarden Neil Chrimes said it was a big project to pull off but the investment has been worth it as the bells now “sound terrific”.
He said: “It was a pretty good peel before but it’s made a huge difference and they’re a lot easier to ring.
“We knew there were some things that had to be done to improve the ringing quality. There was one bell with loose hinges so we knew there were some problems.
“The conclusion the PCC came to was if we’re going to get three bells down anyway and one wasn’t good sounding then we ought to have them all down and refurbished.
“What we thought was going to be £10,000 became a £67,000 job.
“This was all happening in 2020 and it took a while to get the report but after that became clear what we needed to do. It was meant to be a five month job but it’s taken a quite a bit longer.”
He added: “We missed Christmas and Easter and a few weddings but now it’s all been restored they are making a much better tune. It’s a much more satisfying sound.”
The nine bells were returned on April 21 following a refurbishment at Somerset firm Matthew Higby & Co and were decorated ahead of a Service of Dedication and a blessing by Bishop Ian Brackley the following Friday.
The two-week re-hanging process began the following Monday with a heavy tackle being used to hoist the bells up the three-storey church tower.
Three of the eight bells date from 1448 to 1624 and were possibly used in the previous Chapel of Ease that predated the current church.
Others were added at various dates with the tenor being re-cast at the famous Whitechapel Foundry in 1996.
One of the bells from the ringing peal has been retired and replaced with a superior-toned bell with the listed original being re-designated as a dedicated chiming bell for the church clock.
A bell simulator is also being installed to make practice more bearable for neighbours and to increase opportunities for bellringing training at the church.
Nearly 100 parishioners attended the service while a similar number came to view the bells when they were displayed outside ahead of their rehanging.
It was the first time since 1950 that all the church’s bells have been lowered with the event attracting many ringers from the Winchester & Portsmouth District.
Bishop Brackley sprinkled the refurbished bells with holy water and blessed them with the help of some village youngsters.
There was also a rendition by the church choir of Let the Church Bells Ring, an original composition by the church organist Kevin Jacot.