Trust to spend £300,000 to get Ayston church bells ringing once more

Service to mark the closure of St Mary the Virgin Church, Ayston - members of the congregation who gathered at the church on Sunday afternoon, with the Bishop of Peterborough the Rt Rev Donald Allister and Rector of Uppingham Canon Rachel Watts'Photo: SM290712-175js ENGEMN00120120729170632

Service to mark the closure of St Mary the Virgin Church, Ayston - members of the congregation who gathered at the church on Sunday afternoon, with the Bishop of Peterborough the Rt Rev Donald Allister and Rector of Uppingham Canon Rachel Watts'Photo: SM290712-175js ENGEMN00120120729170632

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A conservation charity will spend £300,000 restoring a 12th century church in the hope that its medieval bells will ring once more.

St Mary’s Church in Ayston closed in 2012 when parishioners realised they could no longer afford to maintain it.

But the building has since joined the estate of the Churches Conservation Trust, which has begun a £300,000 restoration project. The charity wants to bring the church back to its former glory and reopen in spring next year.

One of the key tasks will be to repair the church bells. Conservation manager for the charity Dawn Whitton said: “There will be some specialist conservation work to wall paintings and glazing and funds permitting bell specialists will carry out work to make the bells safe for ringing.

“The hope is that once the restoration work has been completed the medieval bells can once again hail our ancient patron saint St Edmund.”

The church needs substantial repair work before it can reopen. Among the relics that the trust hopes to restore are wall paintings and 15th century stained glass windows showing the fragmented remains of a crucifixion scene, a crowned Virgin and Child and two bishops heads.

Dawn added: “There are fragments of at least three schemes of historic wall painting within the church.”

People will be able to see how work on the church is progressing at a behind-the-scenes conservation open day from 1pm to 4pm on November 7.