HEDON’S set of historic hand bells are back home in the town after being restored by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The world-renowned foundry established in 1570 famously cast London’s ‘Big Ben’ and the ‘Liberty Bell’ for the United States – and so the Hedon’s Hand Bell Group members are naturally delighted that the bells have now been returned in pristine condition from the acknowledged world leaders in bell production and restoration.
Hedon’s hand bells are believed to have been cast in 1847, but by 2013 were in urgent need of repair with some of the bells cracked and the leather handles deteriorating with age. Something had to be done if the bells were ever going to be played again – and there was a real fear that the town’s tradition of hand bell ringing would simply disappear.
With the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund a grant of £9,800 was obtained to supplement the group’s own fundraising efforts and the bells were sent away to the Whitechapel foundry for a complete overhaul.
The repaired bells were returned this month and were available for inspection and to play by members for the first time at their meeting this week.
Hedon’s hand bell ringers had been using a spare set of bells from the Beverley Town Hand Bell Ringers to practice with. John Atkinson from the Beverley group told Hedon members: “It’s a remarkable feat in the hand bell ringing community to see a group go from ‘no-bells’ to a completely restored set in less than 18 months! What an achievement!” There would be some difficulties getting used to playing the restored bells because of their newness, explained John – but his jovial offer to let the Hedon group keep the Beverley practice set while he’d take the new set was politely refused.
So what next for the Hedon Hand Bell group? When will we get an opportunity to see a public concert?
“While we have learned a few pieces,” said Joan Richardson, Musical Director of the Hedon group, “to have a complete programme of tunes of a length sufficient for a public performance is still some way off, a few months more practice yet!”
While a full concert done solely by the Hedon group might not be imminent, there might be an opportunity to see a performance of just one or two tunes at other events during the year? We can be assured that the Hedon Hand Bell ringers group will keep us informed.
In the meanwhile of course there will be delight in the town that the tradition of hand bell ringing and practice continues and a new generation will be introduced to this enjoyable and accessible hobby.