Ringers' appeal to save Eastbourne church's historic bells

A clutch of dedicated people at an Eastbourne church are ringing to save their historic bells.

Thanks to a group of bell ringers, the peals of chiming bells can be heard in the roads all around All Saints Church.

Don Ramsey, Debbie Evans, David Leworthy, Verena Loveridge, Pip Pawley, Laurence Lecomte and Stuart Poulton of the All Saints bell ringing squad

Don Ramsey, Debbie Evans, David Leworthy, Verena Loveridge, Pip Pawley, Laurence Lecomte and Stuart Poulton of the All Saints bell ringing squad

But if dramatic restoration work is not carried out soon they may be silent forever.

Captain of the Bells David Leworthy invited the Herald to the 40ft tower to see why this would be a great loss to Eastbourne.

He said, “When people are ill or by themselves at home they hear the bells and sometimes it gives them comfort. A woman came to me and said she was suffering from depression and she really looked forward to hearing the bells ringing because it reminded her of her childhood.”

A fresh band of ringers started at the church in Grange Road in 2007, when expert advice indicated major work needed to be carried out. So the team are hoping to raise up to £75,000 to preserve their beloved 134-year-old bells. They may cease to be ringable if the work is not carried out.

All Saints Church in Eastbourne

All Saints Church in Eastbourne

David said, “The thing about bell ringing is you never learn everything. When you are in the tower everyone’s equal, regardless of age, background, everything. We are all equal when we come through that door.”

The people who showed up to the regular Monday night training session were a diverse bunch ranging from a teacher to a farmer, gardener, railwayman and research scientist.

Its youngest member is 12-year-old Lucy Kelly who is very enthusiastic for the hobby and has been training for more than 10 months. David said, “It’s really great having Lucy and other youngsters come. We all get pleasure seeing them learning.”

Lucy said her grandpa encouraged her to go along. “It just clicked and I really enjoyed it,” she said, “It’s a sport to me, it’s hard work and it pushes me.”

The bell ringers before a practice

The bell ringers before a practice

Everyone was at different levels of learning but the pure joy and delight when getting a chime right was clear to see. They said someone had been ringing there in the tower almost 150 years ago and it would only be right to keep the folk art tradition alive.

Ringer Caroline O’Grady said, “I have been doing it less than a year but it’s really good fun, you don’t have to be physically strong, it’s about timing. It’s very satisfying when it goes right.”

While Debbie Evans, a seasoned bell ringer who performs around the county, said, “There’s always something challenging about bell ringing, there’s another step and another step and another step...It does feel like a very traditionally English thing to do. You are calling people to church and weddings, it’s a traditional thing and makes you feel pleased that you are part of that.”

Weighing a combined four tonnes, the eight bells were added to the church when the tower was completed back in 1883. They rang when Queen Victoria died and survived a massive fire that gutted the church in 1927.

Pip Pawley has produced a detailed leaflet into the history of the bells. He wrote, “The preservation of the bells cast 134 years ago with their inscriptions and timeless sound is an important responsibility for maintaining our heritage for future generations.”

Visit www.allsaintseastbourne.church/bells or email bells@allsaintseastbourne.church if you would like to contribute to the fundraiser or become a bell ringer.