Bell ringers come to aid of church hit by earthquake

Helping hands: The Ribchester bell ringers during a visit to the foundry
Helping hands: The Ribchester bell ringers during a visit to the foundry
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Bell ringers from Lancashire have come to the aid of earthquake-struck campanologists on the other side of the world.

After hearing of the devastation caused to Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand during the 2011 earthquake, the bell tower team of St Wilfrid’s CE Church in Ribchester decided to contact their counterparts more than 11,000 miles away to see if they could offer financial help.

“I don’t recall there being a national appeal and we decided to contact them independently, as we thought it would be a good idea to chip in,” said one of the Ribchester ringers.

The group subsequently raised around £200 towards the cost of re-casting the damaged bells.

They kept in touch and late last year the Ribchester team heard that all of the cathedral bells – around 12 of them in all – were being shipped to the United Kingdom to be either be repaired or recast.

The bells were making their way to Taylor’s Foundry in Loughborough, believed to be one of only two firms in the country capable of carrying out the job.

So, eight ringers from the St Wilfrid’s team visited the foundry to see the work in progress.

They witnessed the bells being melted down and the molten metal then being poured into the casts of the original bells.

“It is a real skill, a real art,” said the ringer. “It must have cost an arm and a leg to ship all the bells to the UK. I think they will be here for about a year before being eventually shipped back.

“The visit was really interesting, something a bit different.”

The February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch destroyed the spire and part of the tower and severely damaged the structure of the remaining part of Christchurch Cathedral, which was built in the second half of the 19th century.

In late March 2012, work began demolishing the building but in the following December demolition was halted following the issuing of a judgment by the High Court of New Zealand, which granted an application for a judicial review of the decision to knock it down made by church officials.

Christchurch officially opened a transitional cathedral, made from cardboard, last year.