IT has been said that ‘time stands still’ in the ancient and beautiful churchyard of Hellingly. It certainly does now!
The magnificent gilded clock, presented to mark the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, has stopped and no longer chimes the hours. The church bells which have rung out from the church tower of St Peter and St Paul for over 250 years are now silenced.
‘Health and safety’, that abysmal catch-phrase of the killjoys and the jobsworths, has, it seems, deemed that the ladder used for decades to gain access to the belltower, and which a local farmer has climbed every week for nearly 30 years to wind the clock, and is sometimes climbed by the bellringers, has suddenly become ‘unsafe’.
No advance warning, or an explanation, has been given to parishioners. Everything has just stopped. The current Vicar of Hellingly is, I understand, sick and not to be disturbed.
When I asked a churchwarden what had happened he replied that it ‘was out of his hands and there was nothing he could do’.
Whilst it is sad news about the vicar, the lack of information seems another example of the Church of England being totally out of touch with reality.
Such action, not least at Christmas - the season of goodwill to all men - belongs in the realms of Alice in Wonderland. ‘Ding-dong merrily on high’ is not permitted in Hell-ing-ly. The village where, alas, ‘Silent Night’ has taken on whole new meaning.
ROGER PAINE RN,
Church Path, Hellingly.