Parish church renews appeal to renew a peal
CHURCH bells which once chimed out over the famous naval dockyard of Chatham could soon be heading to the parish of St Goran.
Hopes are high that permission will be granted for the eight huge bells, 115 years old, to be removed from a historic church in Medway and rehung in the parish church of St Goranus.
Approval will leave parishioners with just one more hurdle to clear before the massive refurbishment of the church tower is complete.
For years the community has been working to raise £80,000 to restore its existing bells, dating from 1772, but project co-ordinator Bob Thornton said the offer of a peal of eight from St Mary the Virgin in Chatham's Dock Road was an opportunity too good to miss.
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St Mary's has not been used as a church for 40 years but plans are currently afoot to lease it and reopen it.
"Under the original refurbishment scheme the money would have paid for the refurbishment of the five existing bells and a new tenor bell in a suitable frame," said Mr Thornton.
"For the same money we can get a matched set of eight bells which have Victorian significance and the job's done."
The plan is to leave the tower's existing bells in situ and hand the eight new ones underneath them.
The bells in 18th-century, grade two-listed St Mary's, where Charles Dickens was once a worshipper, were cast in 1897 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.
They were deemed so important that Queen Victoria gave permission for one – nicknamed The Terror – to be named after her.
Medway Council is due to decide at the end of September whether to let the bells go. If this was agreed, said Mr Thornton, they would be taken to bellfounders Taylor and Co of Loughborough for any refurbishment deemed necessary, "which I think will be minimal".
It was also hoped part of the bell frame from St Mary's could be reused.
"Not only will we be preserving a bit of Victorian heritage but it will be a feather in the cap for Cornwall," Mr Thornton said.
"It'll be a peal of bells that ranks alongside Penzance's in terms of weight and quality."
However, St Goran parish is still £45,000 short of its target, having raised £35,000 thanks to donations of £20,000, the money saved by changing the plans and a £7,000 grant from the Truro Guild of Ringers.
Applications for grants from the National Lottery, Sita Cornwall Limited and other bodies are due to be made but donations are invited and can be made via c/o the Vicarage, Gorran Churchtown, PL26 6HN.