WHEN the bells ring out over Ledbury, on countless Remembrance Sundays to come, and on other occasions, they will be heard not only for the Fallen, but for the victims and heroes of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the £300,000 Bell to Remember project, one new bell will bear the poignant words: "With Compassion for the Suffering Caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic and to Honour all those who have sustained our community, 2020."

It will possibly be the first church bell, anywhere in the world, to commemorate the human story and struggle of the Coronavirus crisis.

Tower Captain, and project spokesman, Tim Keyes said: "It seems very important to have some messages on our bells that are relevant to our own times.

"I could not say for certain, but given that there are only a few bell projects going on at any one time, especially during the pandemic, we may be the first. The inscription cannot go on the bell yet, as the engraver had a serious accident recently just before he was due to do the Ledbury inscriptions, and it will be some time before he can return to work."

Mr Keyes added: "It was a very exciting moment on Monday when hauliers ABE of Ledbury delivered the ten bells - four new and six refurbished and repaired- to the church. ABE had donated their time and their staff to bring the bells over from Oxfordshire. The bells were lined up along the path to the church and we held a short ceremony during which the Rector, the Revd Keith Hilton-Turvey, blessed each bell in turn.

"It was a particular pleasure to commission the new Remembrance bell, funded by the people of Ledbury with this inscription: "A Bell for Remembrance, (1918 – 2018). A Bell for Peace, a Gift of the People of Ledbury, 2020."

It was not the only remarkable happening linked to the most unusual Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day week ever seen in Ledbury.

On Sunday, because of Covid, the grand parade could not march and the vast crowds could not gather, although wreaths were laid at staggered intervals.

But a new memorial stone represents the kindness of a ex-serviceman who donated more that £30,000 to ensure that the town's 'sinking' War Memorial could be restored as a fitting focus for generations yet to come.

The new engraved stone, at the base of the War Memorial, honours the generosity of former Lancaster bomber navigator, Stuart Heaton, aged 96, whose father was, for many years, the editor of The Ledbury Reporter.

Town Clerk, Angie Price said: "Mr Heaton generously donated over £30,000 towards the recent refurbishment of the War Memorial. He is is very keen to visit Ledbury to view the refurbishment works and the stone laid acknowledging his generous contribution, and it is hoped that he will be able to visit the town in 2021."

Speaking to The Reporter last November, Mr Heaton said: "Several of the names on the War Memorial are known to me, and several of those I knew as people; that's the main reason. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do - for myself. I count myself lucky that my name is not on there."

Mr Heaton took part in 22 bombing raids over Germany, from a base near Lincoln.

His father, Arthur Heaton, was the editor of the Ledbury Reporter for 34 years, from 1927 to 1961, and he and his wife, Biddy, are commemorated with a stained glass window in St Michael and All Angels Church.

Before Mr Heaton's kind donation made restoration possible, the town's War Memorial gave the impression that it was sinking into the pavement, because of water damage to stones at the base.