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Anonymous donor pays for new bell at Highworth church

image captionThe bell has a memorial inscription for former tower captain Nick Weaver, who died in 2005

A church in Wiltshire is sounding its full inventory of bells again this Christmas after an anonymous donor paid for a cracked bell to be replaced.

The bell, which dates back to 1689, was one of eight in the tower at St Michael and All Angels Church in Highworth.

When its condition meant it could not be used two years ago, bell conservation group Keltek Trust helped to find a replacement.

A second-hand bell was finally found at a church in Liverpool and transported to Highworth in early December.

The private benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed to pay for the cost of the 635 kg (1,400 lb) bell, which has now been installed in the 13th Century St Michael's church tower.

Memorial inscription

The bell commemorates former tower captain Nick Weaver who worked at the church from 1989 until 2004 and died in 2005.

It has been engraved with a memorial inscription for Mr Weaver.

His widow, Helen Tombs, also a bellringer at the church, said her husband would have been "thrilled and honoured" to be remembered in this way.

"Nick was a good man who was totally devoted to the church, and to the bells and to his family," she said.

image captionThe bell replaces a 33-year-old one at the 13th century St Michael's Church

"He taught lots of people to ring bells over the years, and many of those are still ringing.

"Our aim is to call people to church. That was his main purpose for ringing the bells."

Mrs Tombs did not wish to comment on the anonymous donation which paid for the replacement bell, or reveal how much it cost.

New church bells of a similar size are sold for about £15,000.

Mrs Tombs said the £5,000 cost of transporting the bell from the church in Speke in Liverpool, and fitting it with a new headstock and clapper, was paid for by the local Parochial Church Council, and the Swindon branch of the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers.

The bell was made in 1957 by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough.

"It's a wonderful, lovely bell with a clear ringing tone, and fits in tonally with the rest of our bells," she said.

"We've been waiting for two years since we've had the full eight bells in action, so it is a very special Christmas."

Mrs Tombs said the 17th Century cracked bell it replaced which had been "hanging dead" in the tower since 2010, is subject to a preservation order and would now be put on display in the church.

She said everyone involved with the church was "thrilled" with the new bell, but said "we're struggling for bellringers and would very much welcome more".

The bellringers plan to use all eight bells to ring a "family quarter peal" of about 45 minutes in length at a dedication service and party for the bell, due to take place on 9 February.

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