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Fed Up With Sound of Church Bells, Woman Takes Ax to Belfry

July 30, 1996

COMPTON BASSETT, England (AP) _ Ask not Midge Mather for whom the bell tolls _ it tolled once too often for her.

Fed up with visitors ringing the church bells in this picturesque western England town, she took an ax to the 500-year-old church door this weekend and chopped down the belfry ropes.

Mather’s family has lived in Compton Basset almost as long as St. Swithun’s church _ 400 years _ and she said she felt remorse for what she did. But she also felt that, after repeated pleas to church elders over the years, she could no longer take the bells pealing 100 yards from her home.

``My health was suffering and it was a choice of prison or more suffering,″ she said Monday. ``I have done my utmost to sort it out but in the end I had no option.″

Before dawn Sunday, she spent 2 1/2 hours hacking through the church door with an ax; she then cut through the belfry ropes.

Church Warden Robert Henly told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the belfry ropes were cut too close to the bells to be repaired.

``They can’t be spliced,″ he said. ``They have to be new.″

The last straw for 64-year-old Mather was the two hours visitors from Oxford spent ringing the bells on Saturday.

``I don’t mind the ringing for village services, funerals and weddings, but when it is outsiders just doing it for fun it becomes unbearable,″ she said.

Church elders noted that they limited visitors’ bell ringing to two hours a week in 1994, after Mather complained. They have not pressed charges against Mather for taking up the ax this weekend.

``We are fed up with her,″ said Rev. Peter Saunt, who said he was convening church authorities to discuss the matter. ``We don’t know what action we’ll be taking.″

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