A historic 300lb church bell was stolen from Ivy Leaf Arts Centre in Castleisland, County Kerry in the early hours of Thursday morning. The bell, which dates back to 1776, is feared to have been melted down for scrap metal.

The Irish Independent
reports on the theft of the historic artifact. Jerome Stack, manager at the Ivy Leaf Arts Centre in Kerry, said that he believes a group of thieves must have carried out the robbery of the heavy bell, which measures in 26 inches diameter.

The bell was housed in the Ivy Leaf Arts Centre about four meters above the ground in an alcove. The thieves entered the centre late Wednesday early Thursday through the front door, possibly with a key, and left behind a broken shelf and tiles.

Stack said “I imagine on one hand some would say it only has scrap value, but on the other hand it is priceless.”

The artifact was cast by bell founder Thomas Rudhall in Gloucestershire, England in 1776 and was one of only 16 worldwide, making it all the more valuable. It was originally housed at St. Stephen’s Church of Ireland before it found a new home at Ivy Leaf Arts Centre around thirty years ago.

"I was so disappointed when it was taken. It was a focal point in the centre, now there's a big gaping hole there,” said Stack.

Stack said that he has reached out to local dealers to see if they had any information about the whereabouts of the “priceless” bell, and has appealed to locals to contact gardai with any information.

Priceless bronze bell from the Ivy Leaf Arts Centre in Castleisland, Co Kerry, in the south of IrelandPA