Lottery windfall could help the bells to ring out again at Foxley, near Reepham

The bells of St Thomas's could ring out together again after many years of silence if villagers at Foxley, near Reepham, succeed in securing the grant they need for a repairs scheme.

An enthusiastic band of some 15 people – many of them complete novices – has been learning to ring in readiness for a project to restore the six bells in the tower of the parish church. They were last rung more than a quarter of a century ago and only very occasionally before that.

For safety reasons, churchwarden Tony Rushbrook – himself a fledgling change-ringer – has confined ringing to chiming a bell for services. But he hopes the full set will be back in action as early as next year.

A decision is expected within weeks on whether Foxley will receive a �25,000 grant from the Your Heritage lottery fund. An initial request for �43,000 has since been scaled down after the parochial church council at St Thomas's agreed to provide �19,000 for the project.

Some �48,000 is needed in total for the scheme, which involves taking down, restoring and rehanging the bells, most of which date from the mid-18th century.

Mr Rushbrook, who used to travel the world working for chemical industry giants such as ICI and DuPont, said the oak bell frame seemed in good heart but one of the bells – the tenor – was cracked and the ancient ringing chamber floor was in a dangerous condition.

He said the learners, guided by experienced ringers, had been practising at churches at Honingham, Weston Longville, Reepham and Lyng in readiness for ringing to resume at Foxley.

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Meanwhile, some 150 local people had shown their backing for the project by signing a petition in support of the grant application.

'We are keeping our fingers crossed,' Mr Rushbrook said.

'I think having the bells ringing tells the whole community that there is something going on in the village.'

The appeal tally has been boosted by stained-glass artist Anne Cormie, who made 'bell mice' to sell for the cause and has so far raised just over �500 through sales both at home and overseas. She has also been involved in crafting a new window for the St Thomas's tower – one of various past, continuing and future projects at the church.

These also include creating a coffee area, as well as a hoped-for, �10,000-�13,000 scheme to install four pinnacles on the tower.

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