New bells finally installed at Combe Raleigh church

Trevor Hitchcock with Little Me a bell dating from 1430 at Combe Raleigh church. Ref ehr 44-16TI 131

Trevor Hitchcock with Little Me a bell dating from 1430 at Combe Raleigh church. Ref ehr 44-16TI 1318. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

The achievement has been heralded by Combe Raleigh Bell Project members - who raised £110,000 in nine years to make it happen.

An ambitious nine-year project has raised £110,000 to enable the bells to ring out in a village church once more.

The ring of bells at St Nicholas Church has now been increased to six, thanks to nearly a decade of tireless fundraising by members of the Combe Raleigh Bell Project.

Now, the group is finally celebrating completing its enormous challenge.

Trevor Hitchcock, a bellringer at St Nicholas, said: “It was a great feeling when we rang the bells for the first time.

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“The appearance of the bells inside the church really does look good.

“There are so many people who have supported this project and we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to everybody.”

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The idea of extending the ring of bells was first discussed in 2009, when an active group of bell ringers began to ring at the church more.

A target of £45,000 for three new bells was set by the group, yet members would end up having to raise around £110,000 to finally realise their goal.

Three bells were sourced, two of which came from Bolton and Middlesborough. The other was a Trinity House buoy bell which was redundant.

However, there were many financial challenges along the way which the group had to tackle.

Trevor said: “There was insufficient room in the bottom of the tower for six ringers and a kitchen, so it was agreed we would need a ringing gallery. An early estimate put this at £20,000.

“We accepted that the new challenge was to raise £75,000.

“After much negotiation, we agreed a proposal to keep the wooden frame instead of a steel frame, but modify it to take six bells.”

Members also knew there was gallery at the back of the church which was taken out in the 19th century.

They opted to reinstate the gallery – which pushed up the fundraising target once again.

Trevor added: “When the quotations for the revised scheme came in we realised the enormity of the challenge. We were now looking at a £95,000 project.”

Earlier this year, the three new bells were installed in the church.

A final stumbling block arose after the church clock chamber’s floor was found to be unstable, but the group managed to cover the costs needed to make it safe and install the bells.

Trevor said: “In total, the project was realised at a cost of £110,000 – but it is worth every penny.”

The Bishop of Exeter has accepted an invitation to visit to re-dedicate the bells on the afternoon of Sunday, October 29.

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