LOCKING CHURCH TOWER AND HERITAGE PROJECT
Locking 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 in 2016 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.
Work started in September 2018, following 18 months of fundraising, on the restoration of the church tower and bells. The fundraising included events, concerts, donations from local people, and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and local charitable trusts.
Scaffolders, stone masons, carpenters and electricians were hard at work over several months. Saffolding was errected both outside and insde the tower. Old and cracked rendering which had been letting damp into the tower walls was removed and replaced with lime based render. Stonework was repaired by masons, and rotten wooden beams that support the ringing chamber floor have been repaired with spliced in sections and metal brackets. Wooden cladding in the bell ringing chamber was replaced, and electrical wiring and lighting installed. Repairs on the tower roof ncluded a new door and the weather vane was refurbished and painted up in a gold colour.
In the belfry the bell frame ends were treated and mortaring replaced to strengthen where they are supported in the tower stone walls. A considerable amount of accumulated bird guano was removed from the belfry floor and new stainless steel meshing fitted over the windows to help keep the birds out. Bell specialists Nicholson Engineering completed restoration work on the bells in 2019 including refurbishing the clappers, hinge pins and other items. New ropes were fitted in February 2021.
A Grand Event was held on 6th April 2019 to celebrate the restoration of the church tower and bells. The Archdeacon of Bath led a re-dedication service and bell ringers from Locking and local churches rang out a Quarter Peal. Visitors were invited up into the ringing chamber to see how it is done. The bells rang out again at Easter 2019.
The church's set of 12 handbells were also rung during the celebrations. They had not been used for over 40 years, and were sent for refurbishment to Bells of Whitechapel bell foundry where they were made over 100 years ago. They will be used to encourage young ringers to learn.
Locking Heritage Project
Meanwhile as part of the Tower Project and Heritage Lottery Funding, we worked on a local heritage project with Locking Primary school about the church, Locking village, the airfield and the former RAF camp. This included 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.
In February children from Locking school Years 1 and 2 visited the church, and Years 3 and 4 went on a history walk around Locking. In March Years 5 and 6 visited the Helicopter Museum and Airfield exhibition to learn about the local aviation history.