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Drake's wedding bells silenced by fears over rust damage

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 19, 2012

Peter Sparkes in the bell tower

Peter Sparkes in the bell tower

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The bells that rang out at Sir Francis Drake's wedding almost half a millennium ago have finally been silenced.

The historic bells at St Budeaux Parish Church inPlymouth, which date back more than 450 years, now cannot be rung due to safety fears.

An inspection is being carried out to determine what work needs to be done and exactly how much it will cost – but it is believed the rusty bells could cost up to £50,000 to repair.

Peter Sparkes, from the church, said: "The metal work on the frame has rusted out.

"There's no way we can ring the bells when they're like that. There's a good few tonnes of bells up there, so they could just drop or give way completely.

"Either way, it's a real risk to people's lives and it would be more expensive to get them back up there than repair them."

The six bells date back to 1553 and were famously rung for the wedding of Sir Francis Drake and Mary Newman on July 4, 1569. The ring of six is composed of three medieval bells dated 1553.

Another was added in 1640 and two more modern bells completed the set in 1888.

The last time the bells were silenced was in 1992 following an arson attack on the church.

There are ten regular bell ringers aged between 12 and 57 years old. Normally the bells ring for the Sunday service, or weddings, and the group also meets on Monday evenings to practice.

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