Standing dormant for several years, the church bells of St John’s Percy Main are now once again joyfully ringing thanks to a community campaign to repair them. Revd Lee Cleminson, Priest in Charge of Balkwell, St Peter & Percy, St John shares the story.
Some years ago the church bells of St John’s Percy Main had sadly stopped ringing and stood still (approximately six to eight years ago) and were in desperate need of repair with no funds to fix them.
VE Day was approaching, and the community of Percy Main voiced their sadness that the church was unable to ring out its bells to celebrate the 75th anniversary.
This enticed the community, gave a common focus and they quickly sprang into action! Jams and Marmalades were made, pies were baked, local people from the allotment began to bring their home-grown soft fruits to the vicarage door to be turned into jam and a fundraising page was set up. Within three weeks, the community had done it, had raised every penny needed to get the bells repaired. Then, the winter had set in, the bells had to wait for finer weather, as long ladders were needed to reach the bell tower-almost a year had passed, with neighbours enthusiastically asking whilst I walked my dog “When will we hear the bells ringing?”.
On Wednesday 28 April, (with thanks to Andreas of O & P Bell Maintenance) that long wait ended - the bells began to ring, all in the village and beyond could hear, some coming to their doors, some stopping in the street and others coming to listen, looking up with pride, joyfully watching the bells swinging back and forth, making such a cheerful noise.
Although the bells had sadly stood still for many years, God’s timing was perfect. The focus of the bells have given a common focus to the whole village, bringing hope during such a difficult and lonely year for many.
Jen Dowsett, a resident of Percy Main (and number one Jam seller), said: “It’s wonderful to hear the bells ring out again after such a long time. The whole village is buzzing and as a community, our hard work and donations have paid for them to be fixed. It’s been a privilege to be part of this huge community effort, the community spirit is back and long may it last!”
Keith Bell wrote on Facebook: “Church bells a-ringing, Armatures still going (local football club, until recently had been facing closure), Cricketers winning!! What a month April has been in Percy Main!”
I’ve been priest in charge of this parish for nearly two years and it was such a joy to pull those ropes and hear those beautiful bells ring once again.
Those bells will now be rung on many happy and sad occasions, but most of all, they will be a constant reminder, to a community, that their community spirit is far from dead, it’s very much alive and flourishing.