Great discovery gives rise to bell-ringers

THRIVING: Members of the Clangers handbell ringing group, which meets every fortnight at St Gregory's Church in Sudbury.
THRIVING: Members of the Clangers handbell ringing group, which meets every fortnight at St Gregory's Church in Sudbury.
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When a set of 17th-century handbells were discovered in the tower of St Gregory’s Church in Sudbury, no-one imagined where it might lead.

But three years later, there is now a thriving handbell-ringing group associated with the church, called the Clangers.

The group was founded by music teacher Sue Butcher, of Clarence Road, Sudbury, who was inspired by the discovery of the bells and refused to be put off by their condition.

“They were found in what looked like their original box, which we still have,” she said. “But we had to raise £1,000 to renovate them, which we did through various coffee mornings.”

The bells needed new clappers and leather straps, and now look resplendent in their new case.

And the name the Clangers has taken on a new meaning with the resurgence in interest in the children’s TV series of that name from the 1960s, which is being revived for a new generation.

Members of the group have been busy knitting little versions of the Clangers, which have been accompanying them on their trips and have proved very popular.

The 25-strong group meets on alternate Saturday mornings at the church in The Croft, from 10am to noon, and Sue is pleased that there is a large age range of members, with the youngest being just eight years old.

Sue, who is also known as Major Clanger (from the TV series), said members travel from a wide area to attend the meetings.

“I wanted to hold it on a Saturday so we could get families involved and I am pleased that has happened,” she said.

Sue is keen to get people involved in music who would not normally be, and feels that handbell ringing is ideal since she can allocate bells by numbers and then point at the person so they know when to ring.

Membership is free and the group sometimes gets donations towards its running costs from venues where it goes to play, which have included the Red House retirement home and The Quay Theatre in Sudbury.

The group is currently raising funds for a trip to the Whitechapple Foundry in London, as this is where the bells were made.

Sue would also like to be able to buy two more bells to add to the group.

Although not much is known about the bells, Sue was pleased that someone gave her an old photograph of the actual bells with an unknown group.

The picture did come with names, however, which are: A Scott, W Cross, C Sillitoe, D Harper, W Griggs, J Campin, W Bacon, W Howell, F Tolliday, H Brackett, G Brown and M Sylvester.

If you know anything about the group or the history of the bells, or if you want to join the Clangers, call Sue on 01787 374221.