Bell Tower Open Morning

Bell Ringing is a team sport, a musical performance, an antique art and a demanding pattern-based exercise - all at once! Come and see the Alderney bell ringers in action during Heritage75 and have a go with Nationally Qualified tutors. See the Channel Islands’ only peal of 12 bells. Tea and cakes also available all morning.

The beautiful Parish church of St Anne, Alderney, is often referred to as the “Cathedral of the Channel Islands”. It was built at the sole expense of John Le Mesurier, son of General John Le Mesurier, the last hereditary governor of Alderney. It was consecrated in 1850.

The old church, which was too small, and in a poor state of repair, was demolished upon the building of the new one. Only the tower, built in 1767, now remains. It still has the two original bells, which are heard daily, striking each quarter hour.

Ninety years after the consecration of the church; on Sunday,23rd June, 1940, shortly after dawn, the bells rang out the message to the Alderney people to make their way as quickly as possible to the harbour to board the ships, waiting to take them to England, pending the certain occupation of the island by the Germans.  The Germans occupied Alderney nine days later, and had no respect for the church. It was put to profane use, and was soon used as a wine cellar. The vault was desecrated, the altar was dumped in a nearby field and the headstones were uprooted in the churchyard.

As the 1939-1945 war progressed, so the need became greater for the Germans to find more raw materials with which to manufacture munitions. Not surprisingly, the bells came in for attention. Each was removed from the tower, thus enabling the belfry to be used as a machine-gun post. Evidence of this can be seen by the carving of names of the German soldiers on the walls, some of which are dated. Four bells were shipped to France to be melted down for munitions, and were stored in a field near Cherbourg. One bell, however, was on a wooden gantry outside the main church door and the other was at Braye harbour, waiting to follow the others to Cherbourg.

Upon the occupation of the Cherbourg area by British troops, Captain Tudor, the Cherbourg Garrison Engineer identified the bells, some of which were damaged, and in due course they were brought back to Alderney.

The bells were hung on low trestles near the gateway leading to Victoria Street. It was then that they were “clocked” by the simple means of pulling ropes attached to the clappers, the ringer having to run from one bell to the next!


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