A HAMPSHIRE village church has been awarded a grant of more than £60,000 almost ten years after a devastating fire.

St Peter’s Ropley has been awarded a grant of £62,287 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to rehang the bells in the church tower.

The six bells will ring out once again, following the blaze on June 19 2014.

The bells, the largest of which weighs three quarters of a ton, were salvaged from the church soon after the fire and have been in storage ever since. The church was rebuilt and reopened last year, but as costs had risen, the installation of the bells needed to wait until there were sufficient funds for them to be rehung. 

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Hampshire Chronicle: Dismantling the bells after the fire

There are records of bells hanging in the tower going back prior to 1701, when Samuel Knight, an itinerant bell founder, cast five new bells on a site in Ropley itself. 

In 1927 Marianna Hagan, a local philanthropist and temperance activist, paid for these bells to be recast and increased to six by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon. 

Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to train up a new team of bell ringers. Local children will be involved in helping the Ropley History Network and Archive to research the history of the bells and bell ringing in the local area, and to mount a permanent exhibition in the church. A new handbell team will also be formed to perform on the set of 32 handbells, maintaining traditions that go back several centuries.

In restoring the church, the parish wanted a building that was fit for the 21st century. 

With new toilets, a large kitchen and a community room, the restored building is light and airy and able to host events throughout the week. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Two of the bells were cracked by the heat from  the fire

Already a variety of local groups are using the building and so it has been the venue for classical and modern music concerts, an evening of opera, flower festival, family history day and a ceilidh.

Rev Amber Beresford said: "I am absolutely delighted that the hard work and dedication of those who have looked after our bells is now rewarded with this excellent grant that will restore and rehang the bells, bringing community and ringers together from across the village and county. 

"Having met so many that rang the bells before the fire, Ropley was a well-known ring of bells and I know we will return to that. I can't wait to hear the bells ring out, calling us to worship and teaching a new generation this beautiful and ancient tradition."

Alan Parsonson, Ropley PCC treasurer, said: “We’re delighted that the award received from the Heritage Fund allows the bells to be rehung as a major step in restoring St Peter’s to re-establish itself as a centre of excellence for bell ringing and bell ringers. Apart from ongoing practices and training it is anticipated that St Peter’s will hold an annual event to celebrate the art of bell ringing and the support provided by the National Lottery.”