AN ANCIENT bell has rung out in Stratford once again.
The 700 year-old bell returned to the town after restoration to be hung at the entrance to the Bell Court shopping centre which is currently nearing the end of a £30million revamp.
Researcher Chris Pickford believes the bell – which dates from around 1330 – is likely to have been originally cast as a church bell, and moved to Stratford in the 1500s to be used as a market bell.
It was housed in the timber-framed Market Cross in Bridge Street, and from 1821 to 1959 hung in the domed turret at the new market hall, which later became Barclays Bank.
It moved to the original Bell Court when it opened in 1975, and has now been reinstalled at the High Street entrance to the shopping centre after 16 years in storage.
Prior to it being lifted into place Simon Adams, director of Taylors of Loughborough who carried out the restoration, struck the bell manually – as it does not have a hammer installed at present – watched by Stratford mayor Juliet Short.
The bell is recognised as one of the most important medieval bells in Warwickshire. The lettering and inscriptions on it indicate the same firm cast bells for Westminster Abbey.
The bell hangs in the covered entrance to Bell Court and is now temporarily covered in bubble wrap to stop it being damaged while other work – including staining of the wooden beams – is done around it.
Bellringer Jeanette Davey, deputy tower captain at Holy Trinity Church, was up early to take photos as it arrived back in town at 5am to allow installation to be completed before neighbouring shops opened.
When chimed Jeanette noted the “beautiful and mellow” sound it maintained.
Work is progressing well on the new-look Bell Court, which will include a cinema, shops and restaurants.
It is set to open in the spring.