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Old workhouse chapel bell stolen from Oversley House, Alcester

A HISTORIC chapel bell dating back to the 1830s has been stolen from a retirement complex.

The site at Oversley House, Alcester, was a workhouse in the 19th century, and the bell previously hung in the original chapel.

When it was converted to flats and cottages in 1984, the bell was hung on a wooden frame in the communal gardens, where it has been enjoyed by residents for nearly four decades.

But overnight on 26-27th March, the bell went missing from the site, which is now managed by Securelets.

Stolen bell (45709614)
Stolen bell (45709614)

Lettings and management director Steve Woodley told the Herald he hoped publicity around the theft would make the bell too hot to handle.

“It was bolted on to the frame with clasps, and they undid them and carried it away on Friday night. No one saw anything suspicious and we haven’t got CCTV – although we are hoping to get it installed now,” he said.

As an antique, the bell is irreplaceable. “There’s a real feeling of sadness,” added Steve. “The residents are vulnerable so we now feel the need to get CCTV.

“It is hard to put a price on the bell, but similar ones on eBay are about £1,000.”

Stolen bell (45709640)
Stolen bell (45709640)

Some commentators on social media have speculated the bell might have been stolen for its scrap metal value.

Police asked for anyone with information to contact them by calling 101 and quoting incident 0160 27/03/2021.

Chris Pickford, a bell historian and architectural researcher, said: “Oversley House was built in 1837 as the workhouse for the then recently formed Alcester Poor Law Union.

“The original clock mechanism has been replaced by an electrically operated movement and the old bell placed on display in the grounds of the house with its original fittings, which consist of an elm headstock, hoop gudgeons, a clapper and an iron chiming lever.

“The bell is 16⅝ inches in diameter and its note is D natural. The bell has neither inscription nor date, but the canons and certain details of the fittings indicate that it is the work of W & J Taylor of Oxford.”

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