Eight out-of-tune church bells have been fully refurbished back to their former glory and were hoisted in spectacular fashion by crane back to their original position in All Saints’ 60-foot-high belfry, on Tuesday 15 November.
The newly installed vicar of All Saints, Revd John Bell, blessed the bells before they went back in the tower; they will not be seen again by the public for more than 100 years!
The bells that have been ringing out-of-tune for 115 years were removed in July from All Saints Stranton in a meticulous operation through the west facing window of the belfry, using a truck mounted crane that carefully lowered each bell out of the tower onto a trailer.
The bells and their wheels were returned to the tower in a reverse operation with the crane lifting each bell deftly through the belfry window. Up to ten people were involved in the painstaking operation.
Crowds, including pupils from a local school, gathered at the 12th century church to witness the once in a lifetime opportunity.
Once installed, the bells will again be rung by a large community of ringers from Hartlepool, who range in age from 11 to 80.
The bells were restored by John Taylor & Co, a bell founder in Loughborough where they were refurbished and retuned with newly manufactured bell fittings.
The peal of bells has been out of tune since 1907 when three existing bells – one of which dates from 1520 - were retuned and five more added.
The peal of eight bells includes a new bell to replace one dated 1664, which could not be safely tuned. The 17th Century bell will remain in the tower to hang ‘dead’ as a bell that can be struck and used as a Service Bell.
Andrew Frost, project manager said: “The bells were tuned 115 years ago using old tuning methods and the results were, unfortunately, very poor.
“In recent years the bells have become increasingly difficult to ring, and surveys have shown they would soon become unringable if they were not refurbished and retuned.
“Bells have hung in the tower for more than 400 years and are part of the very fabric of the church. They have rung out every week, marking significant milestones, life events and occasions for the people of Hartlepool over the centuries.
“We are very much looking forward to hearing them ring in tune now that they are restored to their former glory!
“They will remain in place, untouched, for a further 100 years, or more, and will continue to be heard by the people of the town and by their children’s children.”