Wiltshire

Bell from 'England's smallest church' in Wiltshire stolen

Bremilham Church, Cowage Farm, Malmesbury
Image caption The church is too small to have its own bell tower so the bell was housed on an oak beam by the entrance

Thieves have stolen a 291-year-old bell from a tiny church, recognised as the smallest in England.

Bremilham Church on Cowage Farm, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, holds the Guinness World Record as the smallest "in service" church in the country.

Farmer Tom Collins said: "It's nearly 300 years old and it's gone and we're never going to get it back again. We've lost a little bit of heritage."

The bell is about 3ft (about 91 cm) high and weighs 16 stone (101kg).

"It would take two or three men to lift it or move it, but once you get it on the floor you can roll it," added Mr Collins who was married in the church.

"The church is too small to have a bell in its tower, and it doesn't have a tower, hence why it's on the floor by the door on an oak stand where it sits."

Image copyright Tom Collins
Image caption The bell is thought to weigh 16 stones

The grade II listed building has just one small pew and can fit a congregation of up to 10 people inside.

For years it was used to keep turkeys but the present farmers cleaned it out and it was reconstituted as a church.

'Little prayer'

Mr Collins added the church is always open for visitors and he did not want the building locked up.

"People can come and look anytime, and say a little prayer. We can't lock things away like this," he said.

"You just have to trust that people don't take things but we live in a society that people don't care any more.

"It's such a shame as if they had taken tiles off the roof, we could have replaced those, but this is the only bell for Bremilham Church."

Wiltshire Police is investigating the theft.

Image copyright Tom Collins
Image caption The bell normally hangs off an oak beam

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