Abseilers remove bells from fire-ravaged Norfolk church

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Bell being removedImage source, Philip Wing
Image caption,
Abseilers helped removed three bells from Wimbotsham church

Three bells which were left hanging precariously in a church tower ravaged by fire were removed with the help of an abseiling company to comply with social distancing.

Fire swept through St Mary the Virgin Church, which dates from 1175, in Wimbotsham, Norfolk, in September.

The bells, one of which is more than 600 years old, needed to be removed due to their "unsafe nature".

Church warden Philip Wing said it was "quite a relief" to see them come down.

Image source, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption,
St Mary the Virgin Church was severely damaged after a blaze in September

The abseiling company helped carry out the removal, as social distancing rules meant workers could not operate in the small bell tower.

"We thought it would take an hour or an hour-and-a-half, but we had it down in ten minutes," Mr Wing said.

Two of the bells date from the 15th and 16th Century, with the third dating from 1726.

Mr Wing said when the oldest bell reached the floor those watching were "the first people to place eyes on it on the ground in [hundreds of] years".

Media caption,

Wimbotsham church fire: St Mary's 14th Century bell 'precarious'

He said the state of the bells, which cracked in the fire, was "horrific" and "devastating" to see, but contractors were confident they could be restored.

He added it "will take a couple of years" to repair the church tower, at which point a decision will be made as to whether to return them to their previous vantage point or elsewhere.

An investigation into the fire is ongoing.