A historic church bell nearly 320 years old has been restored to its position above the door of St Bride's Anglican Church in Otorohanga, eight months after it was stolen.

The 75kg bronze bell, which could be worth as much as $5000, was taken from the church in June and sold at a Hamilton scrap metal yard for $435.

It wasn't until the bell was sent to an Auckland yard for recycling that workers recognised it from media reports and called police.

The antique, known as the Pembroke Bell - after HMS Pembroke, the ship it was mounted on when cast in 1694 - was returned to the parish.


Yesterday, congregation members and the public gathered for a special service to reinstate it.

Parish vicar Christine Scott said members were delighted to have it back and hear it rung again. "There were people at church who I haven't seen there for a while and they wanted to be there because it was an important occasion."

Ms Scott said the bell was gifted to the parish in the 1970s by an English farming family and she planned to send details of it to Lloyds of London to find out its true value, though an insurance company had put it at $5000.

But it wasn't the monetary value the congregation cared about, Ms Scott said.

"What it means to us, in terms of the connection with the family who gave it, is they can't put a value on it. It's priceless."

Last year, Te Kuiti man Steven Robert Nicol, then 29, pleaded guilty to stealing the bell.