Bells have finally rung out from a Stowmarket church, five years after being sent for repairs before the Covid pandemic.

A dedication service was held on Sunday at St Peter and St Mary’s Church and attended by the Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich.

The bishop carried out the blessing of the bells and their official return to use.

The £179,000 project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, saw the creation of a steel frame to hang the bells and the addition of two extra bells to take the total number to 10.

Stowmarket Mercury:

The bishop said: “Church bells are a rich part of England’s social landscape - ringing out to mark celebrations such as weddings or coronations, sounding dolefully for funerals or national mourning, and more ordinarily simply calling people to worship on a Sunday morning and at other times.

“So it’s a joy to bless the bells at Stowmarket church as they once again begin to sound out after work has been undertaken on them - and a joy too to welcome back that committed group of bellringers who ensure that we hear those bells at their tuneful best.”

Stowmarket Mercury: Dr Mike Harrison, the Bishop of Dunwich. Dr Mike Harrison, the Bishop of Dunwich. (Image: Phil Morley)

The 1984 timber bell frame was left unable to deal with the forces produced by swinging the bells in full circles after a death watch beetles infestation.

But the three-month repair turned into three years due to the pandemic, with a further two-year delay to the blessing and official use of the bells.

Tower Captain Winston Girling said: “The integrity of the timber had been severely compromised by death watch beetle attack. Some of the beams were internally reduced to dust.

“But we now have a superb and well-tuned ring which will last for many years and at least a century.”

One of the original Stowmarket bells, dating back to 1450, remains part of the five tons of metal hung on the new steel frame.

A spokesperson for the Stowmarket Bells Project said: “This wonderful project should secure the future of ringing at Stowmarket for at least the next 100 years.”