A group of Abbotts Ann villagers have got the band back together as their unusual musical group reformed after the pandemic.

The Abbotts Ann hand bellringers play using a set of historic hand bells, and normally perform at a variety of events throughout the year. They have been unable to play together during the pandemic, and have only recently begun playing again.

“It’s lovely to be playing again,” said group member Dee Howarth. “We’re a small band, but it’s always nice to see everyone.”

The bells have a somewhat unusual history, having vanished during World War Two and remaining missing in action for decades.

“Eventually, they were found in the attic of The Eagle’s landlady,” Dee said. “Her grandfather was the publican during the war and he put them away for safekeeping before they were misplaced.

“Once they were found, they were presented to the church and put on display, but we thought that they were a bit sad hanging there so we learnt to ring them.”

Following the resurgence in interest of playing the hand bells, the community banded together to raise money to buy an additional set of bells, with half now owned by the parish council and the other by the church.

“The newer bells are reconditioned bells,” group member Polly Whyte said. “They’re still quite old, and have been toned to sound like the older bells so they can be played together.”

Fellow ringer Biz Morris emphasised the community spirit of the group, saying: “We all get on incredibly well, and we’ve really missed it. We’ve just been starting again over the past few weeks.”

The group played ‘Happy Birthday’ at Abbotts Ann resident George King’s 100th birthday on Saturday, July 17, as one of their first times together since Covid. They even convinced Test Valley mayor, Mark Cooper, to join in with one of their performances.

The group will be seen soon at the Abbotts Ann village fete, which is coming up at the start of September.