DING dong merrily on high! The Otterbourne residents are singing.

For the first time in over 40 years the bells of St Matthew’s church in Otterbourne rung out on Christmas Day.

Various fundraising events and a grant from Viridor Credits Environmental Company helped raise enough cash to build a new bell after the original one was removed due to damage in 1969.

The new bell was made at Taylor’s Bell Foundry in Loughborough earlier this year and was eventually installed in time for mass in late September.

Now, after nearly half a century, the residents of Otterbourne were called to the Christmas service once again.

Churchwarden, Dick Oldham, was just one of the team members invited to watch the bell being cast.

He said: “The molten metal was poured from the furnace into a vast metal bucket. The heat and flare of sparks was spectacular and the top of the Otterbourne mould was still glowing with a dull red heat an hour later.

“The new bell is an exact replica of the broken one which was removed in 1969,” he added. “Taylors, who had cast the original bell in 1838, paid the church the princely sum of 7 shillings and 6 pence (about 38p) to take it away. Unfortunately, the new 2012 replacement bell cost several thousand pounds more.

“It was a tremendous effort by the local community which has saved the village church. Now the repairs are complete St Matthew’s is thriving and everyone is looking forward to the church remaining at the heart of the village for years to come.”