A church bell-ringing marathon lasting 11 hours and involving 24 churches in the Alton & Petersfield District raised £3,500 for the restoration of the bells at St Peter’s Church in Ropley.
St Peter’s was destroyed by fire in June 2014 and all that was left was part of the tower and the external walls. Two bells were cracked and all six were put in storage.
Insurance would have paid for a new modern church but the external walls could not be left as a ruin, and rebuilding was more expensive because the parish wanted a 21st-century building with toilets, kitchens and other facilities that could be used every day. Unforeseen problems and Covid added to the cost.
After years of fundraising the tower was strengthened with a steel frame and rebuilt, but installation of the six Gillett & Johnson bells had to be deferred.
The church reopened in September 2022 and the improvements attracted a vibrant congregation, but the parish owes £200,000 for work done so far, including £155,000 for the steel bell frame. This was funded by a ten-year loan.
The parish also needs to raise £95,000 to put the bells back and a similar amount to complete the project. So far it has raised £15,760 for the bells and has a £10,000 grant from the Winchester & Portsmouth Guild Church Bell Ringers.
Also known as a Tower Grab, the fundraising day drew ringers from the Isle of Wight, Dunblane, Dundee, Liverpool, North Yorkshire, Derby, Suffolk and Bristol.
Each tower was open for an hour and five people completed their four-minute slot at all 24 churches. They each won a little trophy and a box of chocolates or a bottle of beer or cider.
More than 100 day tickets were sold, allowing holders to ring anywhere, or ringers could pay £2 per tower.
Guild master and chief organiser Rachael Barber thanked all the ringers and the 60 organisers from Alton & Petersfield.
Thanked by name were Roger Barber, Jack Regin, Barry Wateridge, Julia Brunt, Francesco Greenslade, Ellen Barber, Simon Poyser, Judy Sparling, Ange Bray, Jue Morgan, Nick James, Dan Souter, Matt Donnelly, Harry Poyser, Carl McBean, Lizzie Stern, Andy Sparling, Jason Wedley, Matt Watts, Mike Novell, Jess Hornsby, Rebecca Restall, Graham Gard, Duncan Wilkins, Katherine Wilkins, Jerry Barnett and Elaine Barnett.
St Peter’s church warden Barbara Pettegree thanked the Alton & Petersfield ringers for the “magnificent result” and invited everyone to ring the bells once they are back in the tower at Ropley.