St Augustines Parish Church Locking
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St Augustine's Locking,
Church Tower and Heritage Project

St Augustine's Locking, Church Tower and Heritage ProjectSt Augustine’s Church, Locking, is a Grade II* listed building of particular historical importance. The oldest part of the building is the medieval church tower built over 600 years ago in 1380, when Locking was a prominent landmark and Weston was no more than a few fishermen’s huts. The oldest of the 6 bells in the tower dates from 1380 making it one of the oldest bells in the country that was until recently still in regular use.

Unfortunately 600 years of wind and rain from the nearby coast have taken their toll on the tower. The penetrating damp has caused timber joists to rot and bell frame to corrode putting the tower and bells at risk. The problem has been made worse by Victorian rendering which has cracked allowing damp in and not out. Because of structural concerns we have had to stop bell ringing, and cannot use the ancient Norman font at the base of the tower inside the church.

St Augustine's Locking, Church Tower and Heritage ProjectA fund raising project was launched in 2017 to raise the expected £150,000 cost of the tower and bell restoration. Fund raising events have included open gardens, ‘Tenner for the Tower’, concerts, an event and concert by the Royal Air Force Association on Locking Parklands, and even a wedding dress display. There has been publicity about the project on Radio Bristol and articles in the Weston Mercury. We still need to raise more money and fund raising is ongoing.

Following generous donations, an award in May 2018 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a grant from a local trust and over 12 months of fund raising, sufficient funds were raised for the work to start. In July 2018 four potential main contractors with experience in restoring ancient buildings were invited to submit tenders for the work which includes repairs to the stonework and replacement of the cracked cement rendering with lime based render. There were also woodwork and strengthening repairs inside the tower and repairs to the bells themselves. Ellis & Co, based in Shepton Mallet, were selected as the main contractor for the tower restoration and work commenced in September 2018.

St Augustine's Locking, Church Tower and Heritage ProjectTower Project Status Report - Jan 2019:

Scaffolders, stone masons, carpenters and electricians have been hard at work over the past four months. Good progress has been made. As at the end of December the external stonework repairs and replacement of the external rendering have been completed. The tower roof repairs including replacement of the roof door has been completed and the weather vane refurbished and painted up in a nice gold colour. The external scaffolding that has surrounded the tower for the past 4 monhs is scheduled to be removed within the next few weeks.

The rotten parts of the wooden beams that support the ringing chamber floor have been replaced with new spliced in sections and metal bracket supports fitted. The internal scaffolding inside the church has now been removed and the area at the base of the tower including the font is now clear and safe to use again. There is some electical work in the tower still to be completed including the installation of new lighting in the ringing chamber and tower stairs with emergency battery back-up. The replacement wooden cladding around the walls in the ringing chamber is due to be installed in the next few weeks.

Up in the belfry the cast iron ends of the bell frame have been treated to protect them and the mortaring replaced to strengthen where the frame ends are supported in the tower stone walls. A considerable amount of accumulated bird guano has been removed from the belfry floor and new stainless steel meshing fitted over the windows to help keep the birds out. Bell specialists Nicholson Engineering are scheduled to work on the bells in February 2019. This will include refurbishment of the clapper assemblies, hinge pins and other items. We are hoping that the bells will be ready to ring out again at Easter 2019 for the first time in over two years and plan to make it a very special event. Word is being passed by the ringers to other ringing groups in the area.

The church's set of 12 handbells which have not been used for over 40 years has been sent for refurbishment to Bells of Whitechapel bell foundry where they were made around 100 years ago. The plan is to use them after refurbishment to encourage young ringers and ring out at carol and other services.

Heritage Project:

Meanwhile as part of the Tower Project and Heritage Lottery Funding, we are working on the local heritage project with Locking Primary school about the church, Locking village, the airfield and the former RAF camp. This includes the history of the church, old photos and maps of the village, history boards about RAF Locking for permanent display in the Radio Wing, and video interviews with former RAF personnel who worked at RAF Locking.

In November we arranged a visit by 60 Year 5 children to the RAF Apprentice monument on the former RAF Locking camp. Afterwards they met in the Radio Wing with former RAF personnel to ask them questions about the camp. In December, as part of the aural history side of the project, we video filmed 5 interviews in the Green Room with children from the school asking questions of the RAF personnel about life on the camp.The videos will be made available on a new Locking Heritage website along with the old photos and maps being collected under the project.

Heritage Lottery Funding