A LONG-LOST cemetery bell is being restored and will soon reclaim its place in Bendigo.
The bell vanished without a trace in 1994 after hanging on a pole in Carpenter Street's cemetery for nearly 100 years and has only recently resurfaced.
Twenty descendants of the man who made it and the pole it once hung from have come together to pay for its restoration.
They all chipped in to pay the $3850 needed to make much-needed repairs.
Di McCulloch is among eight generations of Browns who have called Bendigo home and can trace their lineage back to FM Brown, the foundry owner and inventor who won the tender to create the bell in the 19th century.
"We have a few family members who are getting into their nineties, and we were keen to see the bell restored while they were still living," she said.
The "sexton's bell" was once rung for cemetery business, including announcing the arrival of funeral processions.
Cemetery staff have no record of why it was removed, Remembrance Parks Central Victoria chief executive Dean McElroy said.
"Maybe it was damaged, maybe it was taken down to be restored," he said.
"We have no details from the time about why it was taken down."
Bendigo resident Helen Bruinier understood the bell was taken down because of wear to the cast and, in a 2009 blog post, wrote of her disappointment it was missing in 1998, 100 years after it was cast.
"Many have lamented the empty yoke, where the bell once hung. Ten years later I still wait," she wrote in the blog post.
The McCullochs recently found her blog post and letters advocating for the bell in the Bendigo Advertiser, which triggered their interest in the bell, Di's husband Ken said.
Sadly, by that time Helen Bruinier had died.
The bell was found at a cemetery depot, Mr McElroy said. He was not sure of the exact date it was found, but understood it had re-emerged a couple of years ago.
Ever since, the non-for-profit Remembrance Parks group has been trying to raise money to restore the bell.
The McCullochs have been blown away by how fast Remembrance Parks has worked.
"Through this whole process the staff there have been unreal" Mr McCulloch said.
The bell is currently being restored in Castlemaine and Remembrance Parks expects the project to be finished in the next four to six weeks, unless there are delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bell is not the only surviving Bendigo piece by FM Brown.
His cast-iron fences still stand at at least one city centre mansion and at several historic Bendigo landmarks..
He filed patents for fixing glass in railway carriages and for packaging eggs.
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