Church bell that rang for 150 years silenced after a single noise complaint

19 March 2024, 12:10

St John the Baptist in Witheridge
St John the Baptist in Witheridge. Picture: Roger Cornfoot / Church of St John the Baptist, Witheridge / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Kit Heren

A village church bell that had rung for 150 years was silenced after a noise complaint from one local resident.

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The clock on St John the Baptist church in the Devon village of Witheridge used to ring every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. But it was muffled last December after the noise complaint.

The clock has since been allowed to chime again in the daytime, with the parish council installing a £2,000 silencer, meaning the bell will ring out once an hour between 7am and 11pm.

The unnamed complainant had contacted North Devon council, who slapped the parish with a a noise abatement order on December 22.

Local residents started a petition for the church bell to be allowed to ring again, gaining 300 signatures.

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The church bell has resumed ringing once an hour in the daytime
The church bell has resumed ringing once an hour in the daytime. Picture: Google Maps

"I believe one person’s grievance should not change or affect the joy of many," one petition signer said.

“For hundreds of years the bells have chimed, and it’s criminal to silence them now!”

Another resident added: "It’s a church clock – it’s meant to chime!

A third said: "We should keep the clock chiming. It’s a part of the church and a traditional part of village life.

Rev Adrian Wells, the church’s vicar, said that the silencer was a "good compromise".

He told the BBC: “It is lovely to have the chimes and bells back during the day. The clock is a real focal point for the village.”

Rev Wells added: "Its original purpose was to call people in from their work in the fields, so I accept it is probably quite loud, but I have got used to it."

A spokesperson for North Devon Council said that its environmental protection team had taken on the case.

“They considered the loudness, the frequency and duration of the noise – it was considered that the chime every 15 minutes was likely to wake or disturb the sleep of the complainant and other residents nearby," the spokesperson said.

“The council has been contacted by other residents expressing disappointment at the silencing of the clock bells.

“However, most of these were not in close proximity to the bells and unlikely to be significantly impacted by the noise.”

One local resident said in response: "It is disappointing when we see all these little traditions that we have got used to over a long period of time to be eroded by some of these laws that were developed in the modern era".

The grade-I listed Anglican church was built in the 1500s and restored twice in the 1800s.

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