In a year without a Remembrance Sunday parade, because of the Covid crisis, Ledbury's Bell to Remember project has some ringing good news, to the tune of £280,000.

In a fund-raising drive which started two years ago, Ledbury people were asked to help fund a new bell and a tower re-vamp for the parish church, in memory of the local people who marched away to war, never to return.

And Ledbury people have not been found wanting, because the total raised to date puts the appeal with £20,000 of hitting its target, of £300,000.

Tower captain, Sidney Keyes said: "Bringing to fruition a project and trying to raise funds has been a significant challenge during a year of Brexit chaos, which made local businesses very wary about making donations, and then Covid-19 which put a stop to fundraising activities and prevented us holding any events to highlight what we have been doing. All that said, we are about to bring the project to a successful conclusion at the end of November."

In fact, the Bell to Remember will be unveiled in Ledbury Parish Church on Remembrance Sunday, November 8.

And on Advent Sunday, The Bishop of Hereford, Richard Jackson, will be in church for a short ceremony "to bless and commission the new and refurbished bells".

This is because, key though it is, the Bell to Remember is just one aspect of a church tower refurbishment, including a large-scale re-ordering of the bells and frame.

Mr Keyes said: "We have raised about £280,000 including £100,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. In so doing we have almost reached our target for funding the refurbishment of all the bells and their fittings, and the casting of four new bells - two being replacements - to take us up to a ring of ten bells.

"The project also includes many significant improvements to the tower: complete re-wiring; the repair of stonework, steps, woodwork, walls; redecoration of the first two floors; the installation of additional safety rails and hand grips to make it safe for members of the public to access the parapet of the tower; the installation of nine cameras on different levels which send images and video to screens on the ground and first floors."

He added: "More than 200 local people, businesses, organisations have made significant donations in terms of money or expertise and gifts in kind; and we have received grants from six other bodies besides the National Lottery."

The work will also create a new attraction.

Mr Keyes added: "We are creating an exhibition space on the ground floor that explains the history and practice of bellringing in Ledbury and in the country as a whole from a variety of perspectives, historical, cultural and social. This will be open to the public, but will also be used with local schools and youth groups.

"Over 30 people have given their time as volunteers to sand down and then paint the large metal frame that supports the bells or to help with research for the exhibition."

A special “training bell” in the ringing room will "precisely simulate the action and appearance of a real bell whilst being much safer to use"

Mr Keyes said: "We will also have simulation equipment attached to the bells themselves which will allow them to be rung soundlessly, as regards outside hearers, but with computer generated bell sounds for training purposes within the tower."

Wing Commander Don Rule MBE, President of the Herefordshire Branch of the Royal British Legion said of the fund-raising success: "It's unbelievable and I am delighted; but I think people can be generous when they can be. The Bell to Remember is another way of Remembrance."

He added: "I've often seen people stopping by the War Memorial and reading the names, and that is a good thing. Don't ever stop remembering."