St Augustines Parish Church Locking
St Augustines Locking

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St Augustine's Locking,
Church Tower and Heritage Project

St Augustine's Locking, Church Tower and Heritage ProjectWork started last September, following 18 months of fundraising, on the restoration of the church tower and bells at St Augustine’s here in Locking. The ongoing fundraising has included events, concerts, donations both small and large from local people, and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other charitable trusts.

St Augustine's Locking, Church Tower and Heritage ProjectLocking church is a Grade II* listed building of particular historical importance and the tower is over 600 years old. The oldest of the 6 bells dates from 1380 making it one of the oldest bells in the country that was still regularly rung. Unfortunately just over 2 years ago serious damp problems were found in the tower’s ancient stone walls and rot in internal wooden beams, which meant that we had to stop bell ringing and access to the tower including to the unique stone-carved Norman font which dates from the 1200’s.

Scaffolders, stone masons, carpenters and electricians have been hard at work over the past four months. Good progress has been made. As at mid January 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 has now been removed.

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.

St Augustine's Locking, Church Tower and Heritage ProjectUp 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.

Grand Event:
A Grand Event is planned for Saturday 6th April to celebrate the restoration of the tower and bells. Everyone from Locking and the local area is invited. The Archdeacon of Bath is attending to lead a rededication service at 11 am followed by a lunch open to all in the Church Centre. Bell ringers from several local churches will be ringing, and afterwards visitors will be invited up into the ringing chamber to see how it is done. We also plan to ring our fine set of 12 handbells following their restoration. Anyone interested in ringing or learning to ring please call 822050.

Heritage Project:
Meanwhile as part of the Tower Project and Heritage Lottery Funding, we are working on a 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. In February children from Locking school Years 1 and 2 are visiting the church, and Years 4 and 5 are going on a history walk around Locking. On 20th March Years 5 and 6 are visiting the Helicopter Museum and Airfield exhibition.

Heritage Lottery Funding