A divine sound in the air...

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A DIVINE sound has returned to a former mining village after 12 years of silence.

The historic bell at St Andrew’s Church in Hesleden Road, Blackhall, has been given a “21st Century” makeover following a year-long £9,300 fundraising drive to get it back in order.

Music to his ears: The bell at St Andrew's Church in Blackhall is ringing again after parishioners raised more than �9,000 to have it repaired, much to the delight of parish priest, The Reverand George Liddle.

Music to his ears: The bell at St Andrew's Church in Blackhall is ringing again after parishioners raised more than �9,000 to have it repaired, much to the delight of parish priest, The Reverand George Liddle.

The bell had been out of action since 1990, but following the efforts of generous locals and grant-giving groups “the voice of the community” is now back and sounding as glorious as ever.

It is the only church in the village with a bell and locals have been commenting on how nice it sounds since it was installed two weeks ago.

The church is now set to hold a bell dedication service tonight at 6pm, aptly on St Andrew’s Day, and also 82 years to the day since the church was first dedicated.

Reverend George Liddle will offer prayers for the bell and there will be hymns and readings.

The order of service will also include a poem called God’s Invitation, The Heavenly Alarm, written by 83-year-old Reverend Charles Cole, who previously presided at the church.

Rev Liddle said: “If the church, we hope, is the heart of the village, then the bell is the village’s voice.
“We hope it rings out many a year to welcome people to church.”

The church is known locally as the “inside-out church” as it was originally built in a smokey area of Stockton in 1885, where it was called St Paul’s.

It was taken down brick-by-brick and rebuilt in Blackhall with the blackened bricks on the inner walls.

The church was dedicated on November 30, 1930, with the original bell taking pride of place in the tower.

But it was taken down in 1990 after the mechanism it swung on eroded and became dangerous.

The bell was taken away three months ago and was cleaned up and weatherproofed, before being returned and fitted to a modern mechanism.

“We can now ring the bell with a single chime, a double chime, or do it manually for slower rhythms for funerals,” said Rev Liddle.

“We have already had comments from the community about how good it is to hear the bell again and one chap said it’s nice that we have the bell for Christmas.

“It’s ready to ring for Sunday services, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

“There have been some very generous donations from individuals and organisations too numerous to mention.”

The Mail previously reported that Blackhall chimney sweep Bob Waite helped to raise around £1,000 towards the target by being sponsored to make his way from Folkestone, Kent back home to Blackhall with nothing but his bus pass.

The Bishop of Durham Justin Welby, soon to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, also contributed, as well as the Freemasons of County Durham.