Old lighthouse bell hasn't tolled yet for town
A BELL that used to hang in Portishead's Battery Point lighthouse is to make a long awaited return to the town.
The bronze bell, which weighs two tonnes, used to hang in the lighthouse and automatically sound to warn sailors of treacherous weather conditions.
It was put in the lighthouse when it was built in 1931 but removed because of concerns surrounding the structural strength of the lighthouse. It was airlifted off the site on July 25, 1998.
The Bristol Port Company (BPC), which is responsible for the lighthouse, was considering dismantling the structure at Battery Point because it had fallen into a state of disrepair.
Changes to the way ships navigated the channel using high-tech equipment, also meant the lighthouse was no longer needed for operational purposes.
Local residents were horrified at the news that the lighthouse – a much loved symbol of the town's maritime history – could be dismantled and lost forever.
Portishead resident Carol Thomas, now 61, was so horrified at the plans for the lighthouse, she launched a campaign to save it.
The determined shop worker went door to door collecting cash and even produced her own Battery Point mugs to sell to raise the £3,500 needed for repairs to the landmark. Carol, a grandmother of two, said: "When I go on holiday, I always come back and go straight to the Lake Grounds to look at the lighthouse.
"My father used to be in the Merchant Navy and when his boat used to come up the channel it would get as close as it could to Battery Point and blow its horn.
"As a young girl I used to wait for him at Battery Point and when I heard the horn blow I used to run down to the docks to meet him.
"The lighthouse was also a landmark for the men returning home from the war by boat.
"They knew that when they saw Battery Point lighthouse, home was only just around the corner.
"When I heard that the BPC was considering removing the lighthouse I thought I had to save it and that's why I launched the campaign."
Determined Carol raised £3,500 in just six weeks and the money was spent by the BPC on repairing the lighthouse and putting down a new concrete base and steel struts.
Carol added: "By that point the bell had been taken away and I always wondered what had happened to it."
Earlier this year Carol teamed up with town campaigner Annette Hennessy to try and locate the bell and bring it back to Portishead.
The pair got in touch with BPC chairman Terence Mordaunt to see if he could help find the historic bell.
Annette said: "The BPC couldn't have been more helpful and they managed to locate the bell, which had been stored in a warehouse at Avonmouth Docks.
"A lot of people had always wondered what had happened to the bell and wanted to see it back in Portishead.
"Everyone is delighted that it is now coming back."
Annette and Carol have been working with Portishead Town Council and the BPC to bring the bell back and give it pride of place in the town.
The town council has now taken legal ownership of the historic piece.