“The bells at Our Lady, Stowmarket have not been rung for over 20 years.” explains Sandra Portas, Stewardship and Fundraising Coordinator for the Diocese. “The bells hung in the tower for swing chiming are dated 1747 (the larger one) and 1857 (the smaller one) and are the work of the Mears Foundry in Whitechapel. All canons are intact, and the bells retain their cast-in crown staples.”
The project comprises two elements: repair to the supporting ironwork of the two bells which is in an advanced stage of rusting, this involves two new canon straps to be manufactured and installed on the bell headstocks.
The second element of the project is the improvement to the access to the bells. The current ladder and slab are deemed to be unsafe from a health and safety perspective. The necessary works include the fabrication and installation of a steel-runged CAT ladder to reach from the main entrance of the tower to below the slab floor.
The current slab floor will be reinforced with steel to ensure it is made safe to use. The final part of the project is to install electrically operated chime hammers to the bells, so that the daily Angelus and Mass Tolling could be automatically sounded and also a “key fob” wire free push button control could be used to sound the bell in the Mass, and to activate continuous tolling on command.
Grants have been raised externally from a number of trusts including Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (£4,250), DC Moncrieff Trust (£500), Alfred Williams Trust (£2,000) and Sharpe Trust (£200).
Pictured above is one of the Stowmarket bells.