'Irreplaceable' bronze bell stolen
A priceless bronze bell believed to weigh anything up to 28 stone has been stolen from a former church.
The historic bell was taken from the Ivy Leaf Arts Centre in Castleisland, Co Kerry, between last Wednesday night and early on Thursday morning.
Management at the arts centre fear the rare piece will be melted down for scrap by the thieves.
It was cast by bell founder Thomas Rudhall in Gloucestershire, England, in 1776, and was one of only 16 worldwide.
Jerome Stack, manager, said it was irreplaceable.
He estimated the bell weighed more than 12 stone, but a plaque in the former church states it weighs more than 28 stone.
"I imagine on one hand some would say it only has scrap value, but on the other hand it is priceless," he said.
"I was so disappointed when it was taken. It was a focal point in the centre, now there's a big gaping hole there."
Before the premises became an arts centre 30 years ago, the bell had been mounted in the gable of St Stephen's Church of Ireland church. It has since been housed inside the building, sitting on a shelf about four metres off the ground in an alcove of a church window.
Mr Stack believes a number of people must would have involved in the theft of the bell, which had a diameter of 26 inches. They got in to the centre through the front door, possibly with a key, and broke the shelf and tiles on the floor when it must have been dropped, he said.