The little wooden bell that is full of happy memories

Isabel Metcalfe, right, shows the replica wooden bell to churchwarden Elizabeth Fawcett

By Betsy Everett

When Isabel Metcalfe of Askrigg heard about new bell ropes being fitted recently in St Oswald’s Church, it brought back memories of a quarter of a century ago when the last major work was carried out in the bell tower.

Isabel’s late husband, Jack, had been tower captain for 25 years before his death in 1997, and oversaw the refurbishment  of the bells in 1992. The wooden frame holding them in place had partially rotted and had to be dismantled and replaced, and the bells were rehung with new clappers and ropes.

But before the frame was taken away, John Stirling, a retired teacher who also lives in Askrigg, had an idea: he reclaimed part of the frame to carve replica bells from the undamaged wood to commemorate the rehanging and presented them to the members of the ringing team.
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“John very kindly gave Jack the largest bell as tower captain, and made smaller ones for the team,” said Isabel. “When the work was going on it took quite a long time and I would take tea to the workers two or three times a day. They did a wonderful job,” she added.

She also recalls being taken into the King’s Arms in Askrigg on the day of Jack’s funeral, to see one of the old bell clappers which had been hung from the ceiling in honour of Jack.

“It’s still there to this day,” says Isabel.

An old montage shows pictures of the dismantling of the bells in 1992.