MARYBOROUGH will be a much quieter place during the next six months, after Queensland's oldest bells were removed from their tower and sent for restoration in England.
Following a false start due to wet weather on the weekend, the roof of St Paul's Anglican Church was removed yesterday morning, and the bells were carefully manoeuvred out.
Specialist church bell hanger Neil Thomas flew out from the UK to Maryborough last week to supervise the removal, before packing the bells up to take them to Whitechapel Foundry in London, where they were originally built.
A crane operator volunteered his time to the delicate task of lifting the bells - which weigh a total of 4.6 tonnes - while on-lookers gathered to see the historic moment.
"The bells themselves are one of the finest sets in Australia, and they're in very good condition considering their age," Mr Thomas said.
"But the methods of tuning them have improved over the years, so they will be re-tuned and the worn-out moving parts will be replaced."
The belltower was the first one to be built north of Sydney, when pioneer Edgar Aldridge donated the 25-metre tower and rare nine-bell set in memory of his wife Maria, who died on March 17, 1886.
The bell restoration project has been a labour of love for the St Paul's parish, which has raised about $75,000 through donations, raffles and special events.
But the fundraising is not over yet - another $75,000 will be needed to bring the bells back to their full glory.
"We will continue to fundraise until we get there," Bell Restoration Appeal Committee spokesman Ian Miles said.
The refurbished bells are expected to be back in place by December.