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Church bells that have rung for over 400 years in Hordle in danger of being silenced

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CHURCH bells which have rung out at a Hordle church for more than 400 years could soon be silenced by a drastic shortage of ringers.

All Saints has marked Sunday services and weddings with chimes since the first bells were unveiled at its belfry in 1619.

But now the band of bellringers who keep the peals going have dwindled to so few that there is a real danger the sound will cease forever.

All Saints in Hordle needs bellringers
All Saints in Hordle needs bellringers

Last Sunday was only the second time the bells were silent in their centuries-old history – the first during the Second World War when there were not enough people to do it.

Keith Cossey, who has been ringing bells at Hordle for 15 years, told the A&T: “It was a very sad day.

“But we have reached the point where the number of ringers has declined so much that if just one does not turn up, we cannot ring the bells.

“Many of the ringers are now over 60 and some have been ringing for over 50 years. We also have no one in reserve.

“We need to attract younger people so we can be sure the tradition continues.”

The church is now holding an open day to show people what is involved. They can visit the belfry and talk to members of the bellringing band during the church’s flower festival on Saturday 14th May from 10.30am.

Mr Cossey said: “It is a very interesting pastime and very good exercise. It is quite challenging but very rewarding.”

There are eight bells in Hordle but only six are rung. Due to the decline in ringers, it has become more frequent that instead of being actually rung they are “chimed” as it needs less manpower.

Andy Ingram, who is in charge of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild of Church Bells youth band, which has members from across the New Forest, said: “My own daughter’s Isla (16) and Erin (14) compete in the national competitions.

“I think when youngsters come along and give bellringing a go, they are surprised by how difficult and challenging it is.

“There is the weight to deal with for a start and it is not just a case of pulling a rope to ring it, there is a complexity of sequences of pulls to master.

“But many who have given it a go really enjoy it. Sadly, what we are seeing happen at Hordle is happening across the area.”

Becoming a bellringer at Hordle would involve a rehearsal session on Tuesdays 7.30pm-9pm, followed by ringing every Sunday morning 10am-10.20am.

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