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Outrage as UK village silences its historic 150-year-old church bells after one complaint

This quaint Devonshire village has been the centre of a row over its church bells, which one angry residents claims has been keeping them up.

One resident complained about the church bells, which saw them silenced (Image: Google)

A church clock that chimed throughout a village for 150 years was made silent on Sunday evening, following a single complaint that it was too loud.

St John the Baptist church’s clock tower was barred from ringing in December 2023 following the complaint. It sprung local residents in Witheridge, Devon, into action as they set up a petition to save it.

The complainant, who was not named, argued the chimes, which rung every fifteen minutes 24 hours a day, had been disturbing their sleep.

A noise abatement notice was handed down from North Devon Council to the local parish council on December 22 last year. It was informed it could be prosecuted for a breach.

The church is the focal point of the village (Image: Google)

However, in a defiant response villagers started a petition to allow the “beloved church clock” to chime again. It drew more than 300 people.

According to The Telegraph, one signatory, Becka Cook said: “I believe one person’s grievance should not change or affect the joy of many.

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

A second resident, Matt Price, added: “It’s a church clock – it’s meant to chime!

Lynne Bull argued: “We should keep the clock chiming. It’s a part of the church and a traditional part of village life.”

In response to the complaint and subsequent order, the parish council was forced to put in a £2000 silencer, meaning the clock will only chime between 7am and 11pm, and only once an hour.

The church’s vicar, Rev Adrian Wells, told the BBC: “I think the work of the parish council to fit a silencer is a good compromise because the bell can ring during the daytime and be silent at night.

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

Despite the vicar’s warm words for the compromise, one resident, David Gale, instead said it was evidence that villagers had had to “settle” on the bells only ringing during the day.

He said: “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.”

North Devon council claimed its “environmental protection team” had assessed the amount of noise the clock tower was producing and deemed it too loud.

A spokesman said: “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 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.”

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