Work underway on Barnham’s ancient bellcote

The 14th- century bell with some of the ancient timbers still in place
The 14th- century bell with some of the ancient timbers still in place

RESTORATION work has begun to ensure an ancient bell in Barnham continues to chime.

The £19,000 scheme will see the bellcote at St Mary the Virgin fully repaired.

The bellcote – a wooden framework – houses one of Sussex’s oldest bells which dates from 1348 and was made by John Rufford in London.

Mary Wardell, the press officer for the parish of Aldingbourne, Barnham and Eastergate, said: “The 14th-century bell, alto in voice, is still in its original condition and is rung regularly to call Christians to prayer and during each Mass as it has done over the past 700 years.

“With covered scaffolding erected to protect the restoration work, a specialist team is currently working on returning the bellcote to its former glory and hope to have the work completed in the weeks to come before the worst of the winter weather arrives.

“The faithful community who worship there are looking forward to hearing the sound of their special bell ringing clearly again, safely housed in its new bellcote as it has done since the reign of Edward III.

“Long may it continue to ring out the Christian message for all to hear.”

The church dates from the 11th century. Its bellcote was last re-clad in 1929. Several holes in the crumbling timbers had provided access to the weather as well as birds and animals to show it was long overdue for new timbers.

It is one of the few remaining Sussex White Caps and was a well-known navigational aid for the waterways and the many boatmen who used the estuary which ran close the ancient stone church up to the Middle Ages.

Over time, the water receded and the village which had clustered around the church has moved further north.