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Lottery funded repairs to church with Norfolk's oldest set of bells

PUBLISHED: 11:54 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:01 12 April 2019

St Michaels Church at Aslacton which is to undergo further repairs thanks to a lottery grant that will also ensure it remains open to the public.  Picture: Denise Bradley

St Michaels Church at Aslacton which is to undergo further repairs thanks to a lottery grant that will also ensure it remains open to the public. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2012

The round Saxon tower of a Norfolk church that houses its unique set of bells is to be made structurally safe thanks to a lottery grant that will also ensure it remains open to the public.

The interior of St Michaels Church in Aslacton which is also set to be part of a heritage project thanks to lottery funding. Picture: Evelyn Simak/GeographThe interior of St Michaels Church in Aslacton which is also set to be part of a heritage project thanks to lottery funding. Picture: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

St Michael’s in Aslacton, near Long Stratton, a Grade I listed building thought to have been built in 900AD, will undergo repairs after securing a National Lottery Heritage Fund second round grant of £73,200.

The church’s five bells were silenced in 2012 when a large crack appeared in the Saxon-era round tower, prompting fears the building, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book, may have to close in the long term.

It prompted local campaigners to set up the Aslacton Tower Repair Fund to raise an initial £15,000 to carry out urgent repairs.

The crack at St Michaels Church in Aslacton above the arch under the round tower and its unique peal of bells that initially sparked the campaign for its repair and renovation. Picture: Denise BradleyThe crack at St Michaels Church in Aslacton above the arch under the round tower and its unique peal of bells that initially sparked the campaign for its repair and renovation. Picture: Denise Bradley

The interior of the unusual round tower was subsequently repaired and the unique five bells were reconditioned and rang out again. Made by William Brend of Norwich, the oldest set in Norfolk they are unique in that they ring in an anti-clockwise fashion.

However the work revealed that St Michael’s had further serious structural defects.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, secured by Aslacton Parochial Church Council with the support of former members of the repair fund, will now enable work to ensure the round tower is structurally safe and the church will be made waterproof to safeguard its future.

Organisers of Aslacton Church Tower repair fund action group at its launch in 2012. From left, Janine Jarrett, Geoff Gamble, Peter Jarrett and Peter Webb. Picture: Denise BradleyOrganisers of Aslacton Church Tower repair fund action group at its launch in 2012. From left, Janine Jarrett, Geoff Gamble, Peter Jarrett and Peter Webb. Picture: Denise Bradley

Chairman of Aslacton Parish Council Geoff Gamble said: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will support the continued heritage of St Michael’s.

“This enables St Michael’s Church to continue playing an active role within the local communities and remain an outstanding historic building for all to enjoy now and for future generations.

“These works will not only keep the church open but the history of the Aslacton project will generate fresh interest in the church and surrounding area.”

The East window at St Michaels Church in Aslacton. The building is to undergo further repairs thanks to heritage lottery funding. Picture: Evelyn Simak/GeographThe East window at St Michaels Church in Aslacton. The building is to undergo further repairs thanks to heritage lottery funding. Picture: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

The lottery grant will support the gathering and recording and promotion of the history of the parish of Aslacton in the form of an interactive exhibition in the church.

Linked to the exhibition is the creation of a book called A Stroll Through Aslacton, reflecting the history of village over the last 80 years and containing memories of parishioners, information about Aslacton people and buildings, with illustrations from local school children.

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