Long Stratton rings to sound of cheers as church bells saved
Campaigners fighting to save historic bells at a Long Stratton church have spoken of their delight after receiving vital funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The HLF has agreed to give members of St Mary's Church �34,500 to help with their project to preserve the six church bells, most of which are about 400 years old with one dating back to 1320, believed to be the oldest in use in Norfolk.
Rev Elisabeth Spry, assistant priest and tower manager, said: 'We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident that the project will enable the bells to be rung for many years into the future and for residents of the Long Stratton area to learn more about the history of the bells and clock and the people involved with them in the past.'
The money will enable the tower's six bells to be removed, repaired re-tuned and then re-hung so their traditional peals can continue to ring out at services, weddings and special occasions for decades to come.
The church's 17th century turret clock, which stopped working two years ago, will also be repaired and the church members have raised additional funds to help pay for the work.
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The heaviest bell weighs more than half a tonne and the bells will then be sent to a specialist foundry to be restored which should take about three months.
Bell ringers currently have difficulty producing a full peal from the bells, which have not been repaired since 1904, so the aim is to restore them to full voice and enable the bell ringers to teach others how to use them.
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In a unique Long Stratton tradition, a special Christmas Eve peal, lasting almost three hours, is rung to celebrate the festive season.
If enough money is raised, the church will host an open day where residents can call in and see the bells once they are removed and browse an exhibition detailing their history.
It is hoped a bell which once chimed the time and now sits in a display cabinet in the church will also be reinstated once the clock is repaired and an automatic winder installed.