Waiting for the bell: Waterdown church hopes to ring again soon

Waterdown may soon hear a century-old church bell again, after its lay silent for the past five years.

Century-old Flintoft Bell made in memory of local WW1 soldier

The Flintoft bell is currently silent, as it rests in the Grace Anglican Church entryway. (Submitted by Grace Anglican Church)

For the last five years, Waterdown has missed a familiar sound: a century-old bell ringing from the local church each day at noon.

"People would set their watches by it," said Rev. Sue-Ann Ward, rector of Grace Anglican Church.

For almost 100 years, the Flintoft Bell rang out for weddings, funerals, Sunday services and joyous events — so when the church removed the bell after building damage, Ward said they got a lot of phone calls about the silence.

"There's just a sense of absence," she said.

But downtown Waterdown may be ringing again by next Spring, as the church raises funds for a new community space and bell tower to house its faithful tone-maker. 

Named for Waterdown soldier

The bell arrived at the church in 1918, commissioned in memory of Waterdown World War One soldier, Lance Corporal Thomas Flintoft.

Flintoff was part of the first Canadian regiment to arrive in Europe — the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry — but died at Ypres at age 33. His family commissioned the bell shortly after, the church said.

At an open house on Saturday, the church is dedicating the new bell tower to Flintoft's regiment, calling it the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Memorial Bell Tower.

That regiment, while based in Edmonton, has an enduring history at the church: there are two veterans in the congregation, Ward said, and another veteran is buried in the cemetery. Active and retired members will be at the open house on Saturday, she said, along with members of Flintoft's family.

Congregation raised $500,000

The church removed the Flintoft Bell about five years ago; its heavy weight was causing structural damage to the roof, Ward said.

So far, she said congregation members have raised around $500,000 for the new construction project, which is half the $1 million needed for the new community space and bell tower.

The new community space will be called Bobby's Place, in memory of 10-year-old Bobby Smylie, a Waterdown boy who died last year of flu-related causes.

A rendering of the future community space and bell tower at Grace Anglican Church. Rev. Ward hopes to hear the Flintoft bell ringing by next Spring. (Submitted by Grace Anglican Church)

For now the Flintoft Bell sits in the church entrance, waiting for its day in the sun.

"Bells have been part of our lives in so may ways," said Ward.

"I know there will be great joy when its able to ring out again."

The Grace Anglican Church open house is from 12 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, featuring an array of children's attractions and community events.