The 50kg instrument plummeted towards them when they gave it a hard tug
Elderly party included Bath and Wells' oldest bellringer John Fowler, 90
One said: 'The bell jammed between two beams which is incredibly lucky'
A group of veteran bellringers - including their 90-year-old leader - were forced to flee their church tower after a bell broke loose and crashed through two floors towards them. The eight admitted today that when the 50kg instrument plunged down through the 600-year-old church tower it 'scared the living daylights out of them'.
One parishioner tripped and fell in the rush to leave St Peter & St Paul Church in Kilmersdon, Somerset, but luckily nobody was seriously injured because the bell got stuck 30ft above their heads.
It has caused so much structural damage that the church has now been sealed off and emergency works started in case the five other bells also fall down. Veteran bellringer Sid Johnson, 79, who first started there as a 14 year-old, said: 'The bell came adrift and jammed between two beams which is incredibly lucky really.
'No one is allowed back in there at the moment because it is so dangerous. I believe the hundredweight bell is just hanging on by a thread.' The drama happened on November 5 after one of the group noticed the tenor bell was proving difficult to ring during their regular Tuesday practice session. They gave a hefty tug on their rope - and the main axis spindle of the bells broke and sent one plunging down the church tower. The bell smashed into the timber beams in the clock chamber floor and scattered timberwork and debris. Emergency engineers were called in and they immediately closed the church, which remains shut. The engineers have temporarily secured the remaining five bells to stop them from falling and causing any further damage. Church vicar Sue Greatorex said: 'The bell which has fallen down is the fifth - if it had been the tenor bell there could have been very serious consequences. 'It has caused significant damage but we hope that it can be swiftly repaired and we can hold services at the church again within the week. 'The bell ringers are very shaken but thankfully managed to escape without serious injury, although one person suffered bruising as they fell down the stairs.' The bellringers are from the local Radstock group who practice at the church between 7.30pm and 9pm every Tuesday. They are led by the oldest bell ringer in the Bath and Wells Diocese, 90-year-old John Fowler, who first began bell ringing as a 12-year-old in 1933.
The bell ringing community have responded in shock and amazement at the 'very rare' incident. Michael Hansford, from Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, said: 'I have never heard of anything like this in my 42 years of ringing. 'What happened in Kilmersdon was a freak and very rare accident and I'd be surprised if I hear of another incident like this in my lifetime.' The Bath and Wells diocese is now carrying out an investigation. Andy Piggott, Archdeacon of Bath, said: 'We are very grateful to God that no one was seriously injured. 'The fallen bells have now been secured by experts and we've been assured that they're now completely safe. 'It must have come as quite a shock to the bell ringers below. 'The PCC at Kilmersdon is working with engineers to investigate what could have caused this to happen. 'Every church in the diocese is thoroughly inspected by a qualified architect every five years. The church insurers also inspect churches on a regular basis.'