Major restoration work begins on church

St Augustines Church in Locking has raised £150k (£40k grant) for tower restoration and bell repairw

St Augustines Church in Locking has raised £150k (£40k grant) for tower restoration and bell repairwork. Campaigners outisde church where scaffolding has gone up. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

Restoration work on Locking’s church has begun following a mammoth fundraising initiative.

In April 2017 villagers began trying to raise approximately £150,000 to repair the tower of St Augustine’s Church and the bells within it.

Damp and the rotting of the bells’ beams had meant the area was no longer safe to use, with a danger the instruments could fall if pulled hard.

But a combination of hard work and generous grants means the repair programme has begun.

The Heritage Lottery Fund was asked to provide £100,000 towards the project but the congregation’s initial application was turned down. A subsequent bid for 25 per cent though was given the green light by the charitable body.

But it still left Locking villagers with more than £100,000 to raise, but they have managed the feat in less than two years.

Eddie French, who along with his wife Mary, is a churchwarden for St Augustine’s and they have thanked everyone for helping out with the cause.

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He said local businesses have put out collection buckets, while a series of open garden events, coffee mornings and concerts, by groups such as the RAFA band, have helped the church towards its target.

Eddie said the primary school’s pupils have also got behind the project, by studying the church’s history.

The church’s problems with damp were well known, but it was not until a survey was carried out early last year that the issues with the bells’ beams became clear – much to the church’s surprise.

Eddie says it will be great to have the bells back in action, especially for the weddings it holds.

He said: “It would mean a lot to people.

“The number of weddings we hold are increasing and people really like to hear the bells

“I think people do miss (hearing) them.”

One of the bells has been in use since the 1380s and Eddie says it is therefore one of the oldest in the country.

Scaffolding has gone up as the rendering process begins.

Eddie said the work had not gone unnoticed by the church’s neighbours.

He joked: “More people seem to have noticed the scaffolding than ever did the church.”

If everything goes to plan, the work should be completed by Easter 2019.