THOSE passing through the centre of town may have noticed that the “Dursley Bell”, as it is known, has been reinstated to its lofty position on top of the town hall – but very few will know the history behind it.
The artefact was commissioned by lord of the manor of Dursley, Thomas Estcourt, in 1738 when he built the Market House for the town.
It was used as the town’s fire alarm so when it was run the firefighters would rush to the building and collect the fire-fighting equipment and ladders.
The bell, which weighs about 76kg, was cast in Gloucester by Abel Rudhall and bore the inscription Come Away Without Delay with the date 1747.
It hung there for 260 years until vandals climbed the scaffolding erected for the renovation of the hall in November 2005, unhooked the bell but dropped it and shattered into numerous pieces.
It seemed unlikely at the time that it would ever be repaired, owing to the number of pieces it had been broken into and the specialist knowledge needed to fix it.
But the Dursley Town Trust, which looks after a number of landmark buildings in the town including the Market House, were able to recoup the £900 needed to repair it from the insurance and it was sent to specialist bell maker Mark Strupczewski at his company Soundweld in Newmarket.
While the bell has been restored to its former glory and hung back up in December, it will never be possible to ring it again.
The bell’s old clapper and stock are being kept in Dursley Heritage Centre, along with pictures of the restoration.
Member of both Dursley Town Trust and Dursley Heritage Centre, Gerry Pierce, said he was delighted that they were able to put the bell back together.
“That bell is 267-years old, so that’s quite a bit of history,” he said.
“When we saw the number of bits, we were appalled. Then we had to worry about the complexity of putting it together again.”
Dursley Town Trust chairman, Mike Doughty, added: "Whilst it is somewhat difficult to see on the roof, it is the perfect place for the town's history."