Church’s silence slips away after 40 years

Reverend Steve Rothwell, Laurence Drake, William Drake and John Boocock
Reverend Steve Rothwell, Laurence Drake, William Drake and John Boocock

Determined villagers have returned the pealing of a church bell to the soundscape – forty years after it was last heard.

A bell has been newly installed in the small church in Hatley St George.

William Drake, who is currently carrying out his silver Duke Of Edinburgh community award at the church, and his father Laurence Drake, both of Hatley St George, have made a wooden frame to hold a small sanctus bell that originally came from the now disused church of St Denis at East Hatley.

The wood was donated by Warwick Raymen of Trulite Windows in nearby Croydon and John Boocock, tower captain of St Mary’s church in Gamlingay, designed the frame to hold the bell.

Laurence Drake and John Boocock installed the frame in Hatley St George’s bell tower.

They had to hoist the frame up in sections due to limited access to the tower and assemble it in situ before the bell was hung, with help from William Drake to attach the bell’s rope.

Reverend Steve Rothwell blessed the bell during a service. He said: “It is wonderful to have a bell ringing again in this beautiful church after so many years without one.

“We are extremely grateful for the help and effort that William and Laurence have put in to making the frame and to John for assisting with getting everything ready for the bell to be rung.”

The two original bells at Hatley St George church date from the 17th tower but they cannot be rung due to the condition of the original bell frame.

Villagers remember it was the early 1970s when these bells were last rung at the church before being safely stored in the tower. Hatley St George church dates back to the 1300s but has undergone extensive alterations over the centuries.

In 1875 the nave was restored and re-roofed whilst in the early 1970s the chancel was removed and a new wall and window added across the original chancel entrance.

Cambridge poet, author, priest and chaplain Malcolm Guite recently wrote a poem dedicated to the church.

As well as being included in his new book, The Singing Bowl, it is on display in the church, copied in elegant calligraphy by villager, Olivia Drake.

Plans are underway for a big weekend of events at Hatley St George church in June, which will include a herb festival in the church on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29, a concert on the Saturday evening and a village fete on the Sunday afternoon.