MYSTERY surrounds the disappearance of a bell that has called time at a Yarnton pub for almost 30 years.
The bell in the Red Lion, Cassington Road is from HMS Yarnton, a Royal Navy patrol ship and former minesweeper.
It was presented to the village in 1985 when the ship was withdrawn after 30 years service and Yarnton Parish Council put it in the pub’s care.
The space at the bar where the bell used to be
The bell, which hung over the bar, was reported missing by its new manager Georgina Honey when she took over on June 17.
She said: “I grew up here, so my mum realised the bell had gone really quickly.”
She got in touch with pub owner Hawthorn Leisure and was told previous owner Chrissie Jones had given it to the Navy.
Former landlady Chrissie Jones
The navy said it was unable to say if it had received the bell but said it had not requested it.
Asked if she had taken the bell, Ms Jones said: “As far as I am aware, the bell is in the hands of the legal owner and if anyone has evidence to the contrary and considers it stolen, then they should notify the police of its theft.
“The pub is fully aware of it’s location and I’m surprised they haven’t sought to put an end to this unnecessary speculation and gossip.”
The Oxford Mail then asked again if she had taken the bell and had yet to receive a response at the time of going to Press.
Miss Honey, 21, said: “There’s been quite an uproar in the village about that.
“It was owned by the parish council and in the pub’s care. People are really upset about it around here. It wasn’t hers to get rid of.”
She added: “It definitely makes me feel like I’m starting on the back foot.”
Yarnton Parish Council chairman Fred Jones said Ms Jones told him she had given the bell to the Navy and would return it within a week.
He said: “She’s unable to provide me with any contact details but she assured me that she would return it within a week, but I’ve not heard from her since.”
The council will consider contacting police if it is not returned, he said.
“We want to get it back on an amicable basis and hopefully we will be successful.
“However, the parish council will pursue the return of this item if at all possible. We do have certain evidence if involving the police is necessary.”
He would not comment on what that “evidence” is. Hawthorn Leisure refused to comment.
Royal Navy spokeswoman Donna Stephens said it would only want the bell back if it planned another HMS Yarnton, which it is not planning.
She said: “As there is no reason to request its return, it is very unlikely someone from the Navy asked for the bell.”
HMS Yarnton was a Ton-class coastal minesweeper launched in 1956, designed to deal with mines in shallow waters.
Ray Linekar, then manager of the Red Lion, receives the bell from John Brain in 1985
All Ton-class ships were supposed to be named after insects, such as Red Ant and Green Cockchafer, but instead they were named after British towns and villages ending in “-ton’’, hence the name of the class.
In 1971 the Yarnton was converted to patrol craft for service policing Hong Kong's territorial waters, removing the minesweeping gear and being fitted with a second gun on the funnel.
The Yarnton was decommissioned in 1985 - when the bell was given to Yarnton Parish Council - and was sold the next year.
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