The joyous peal of bells will soon ring out from St Mary the Virgin Church in Great Wymondley, after almost half of the £70,000 needed to restore them was raised through jam-making.

Cherry Grant, former parochial church councillor, makes and sells the jam and has been raising funds for the bells.

The retired primary school teacher said: “I started making jam as a fundraiser more than 20 years ago. It’s a family tradition I learned from my mother, grandmother and aunt.

“We grow most of the fruit in our garden and allotment -  everything from raspberries to morello cherries and quince. I make more than 30 varieties, including the ever popular marmalade.”

The Comet: St Mary the Virgin Church, Great WymondleySt Mary the Virgin Church, Great Wymondley (Image: Courtesy of Cherry Carter)

Cherry increased the fundraising total by selling plants from her garden and making fudge and chutney, as well as wedding favours of little pots of jam.

In addition, The Hertfordshire Bellringing Association and The Sharpe Trust have given grants for the work. There have also been several donations.  

There is still a shortfall so the fundraising continues, but Cherry is absolutely delighted that all the hard work is finally coming to fruition.

One of the six bells is from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and is of such historic importance it cannot be tuned or refurbished, nor removed from the church. But it will be hung in the tower as a chiming bell for services.

The Comet: Former parochial church counsellor Cherry Carter who has raised more than £30,000 towards restoring the church bells with her jam making and other fundraising activitiesFormer parochial church counsellor Cherry Carter who has raised more than £30,000 towards restoring the church bells with her jam making and other fundraising activities (Image: Courtesy of Cherry Carter)

A replacement has been donated by The Keltek Bell Trust and comes from a church in Wrexham.

All six will be lowered on Monday, April 15. Special steel girders have been fitted into the belfry walls so they can be taken down safely.

Bellhangers Whites of Appleton will transport the bells to their works in Oxfordshire for refurbishment and return them towards the end of August, when they will be on display at the rear of the nave.

They will be blessed by the Bishop of Hertford, Jane Mainwaring, at a special thanksgiving service with vicar Ginni Dear on Sunday, September 1, before being rehung.

The historic bells were last heard in 2018 when the church was closed for major interior restoration. They remained silent during the pandemic and ever since.

And while Cherry is looking forward to hearing the old bells ring out again, she’s sad that former tower captain Peter Croft, who died in 2021, will not be there to hear them.

The Croft family has been synonymous with bell ringing in Great Wymondley since the 1700s.

William Croft trained the village ringers who rang the first peal of 5,040 changes in 1906.

Cherry says: “He was joined by his brother Arthur and cousins Ralph, George and Frank – who became captain in 1945 and was a leading member of the County Association of Change Ringers.

“I had very much hoped  that Peter – Frank’s son – would be able to ring the re-hung bells. Sadly that’s not to be. But I know he’d be really pleased we’ve been able to complete the project we’ve talked about for so long.”

If you’re interested in becoming a campanologist (bell ringer), contact Cherry on 07814 837773 for more information.