As a result of the Handbells being played in public for the first time in 92 years at the Annual Candlelight Carol Service at St. Nicholas Church on 15 th December, 1996, 1 have been asked to give a short account of the history of them as recorded in the notes written by the late 'Pip' Orange.
A set of 12 handbells were kept in a wicker basket in the 19th and early 20th Century. The five Bell Ringers of St Nicholas just before the tower collapsed in October, 1898 were:-
These 5 men paid for the handbells to be re-cast about 1898. (Whilst ringing St. Nicholas bells on practise nights Salisbury King Lambert being the youngest of the ringers was appointed the 'Fetcher'. His job was to fetch BEER from the Old Chequers Inn at one shilling (5p) a pint.
The beer cost three-halfpence a pint outside the pub and twopence a pint inside (Old money). The 'fetcher' then carried the beer in a 'Fetching bucket' where the ringers quenched their thirst in the Church Porch.
About 1950 Maurice SEARING sent the handbells to the late 'PIP' Orange's mother with a note saying that he knew of no-one better in the village to whom he should send them. The W.I. were asked to try and arouse some enthusiasm in the Village without success.
For many years the bells remained in a shed at No, 34 Hill Street.
In 1969, the bells were handed to the FELTWELL (H&A) SOCIETY for safekeeping and at the December meeting the members played Christmas Carols under the direction of 'Pip' Orange, the Chairman and Founder.
As a surprise, Walter Hammond BEAMIS was taken to the meeting and was overcome with emotion at seeing and hearing the bells again. He thanked the Society and said that as far as he could remember it was the first serious attempt to play the bells for some 60-65 years. As a young lad he used to tour the Village at Christmas time playing the bells with other members of the Feltwell Enterprise Band, and up to 1904 they always played carols in the streets, collecting money for the Band Fund.
The set of bells have remained in storage since 1970 and it was only at the instigation of Peter and Sybil Cooper that they were restored and re-furbished culminating in the surprise item in the Carol Service.
The bells will be taken to each Monthly meeting of the H&A Society and members will have the opportunity to practise with them under the guidance of Sybil Cooper. A Handbell Group could be considered if there was sufficient enthusiasm raised in the Village.
Read 'Pips' original account or go to Times Remembered