Historic church bells are set to ring out again - after villagers managed to secure a huge grant towards their reinstatement.

St Margaret's Church in Westhorpe, near Stowmarket - has been without the sound of bells for 100 years.

But a £142k National Lottery Heritage Fund grant towards the £182k project will see plans to restore them over the line.

It means that the village will once again hear the sound of bells pealing at the historically-significant church - including a bell dating back to 1450 which would have been rung in Mary Tudor's time.

This Thursday, August 3, Westhorpe rector Rev Philip Merry and the Bishop of Dunwich Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison will bless the bells at a service starting at 6.30pm before they head to Taylor's bell foundry in Loughborough to be repaired. The ancient bell tower will also be restored.

The village's Mary Tudor Committee held a number of local events and decided to approach the National Lottery to help with the project. Other donors include Westhorpe Trust (£5k), Gazoni Trust (£5k) and Suffolk Guild of Ringers (£5k).

As well as restoring the five historic bells and the tower at the 1,000-year-old church to full working order - the church will be adding a new commemorative bell to create a ring of six.

Villagers are also looking forward to the return of the ancient art of bell-ringing - and hope the restoration works will enable the church to become an important place to meet.

The aim is to bring its rich history to life through digitisation, a website and an audio tour - and provide an educational resource for groups such as schools, local community organisations as well as attracting bellringers from a wide area.

The village has been home to a number of famous historical figures - including Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor who was briefly Queen of France, 1940s and 1950s film star Jean Kent - and 1600s Baptist minister Dr John Clarke who went to Rhode Island in America where he championed religious freedom in the New World.

The project will aim to highlight how Westhorpe’s society has developed and is shaped by the lives of its ancestors.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, Emeritus Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford, said it was "wonderful news" that "the heroic fundraising of Westhorpe's people and friends has been so generously recognised by The National Lottery Heritage Fund".

"Thanks to all this effort, the historic legacy of this remarkable place will be further safeguarded to delight future generations.”

The group is also working with Suffolk Wildlife Trust to preserve the biodiversity of the church and grounds and gain Eco Church status.

Church treasurer and bell ringer Clive Mees said: “We are delighted that all of the efforts of the steering group, residents and wider community have been successful in securing this funding.

"Preserving and promoting the church in Westhorpe will ensure a thriving community for the future, and will ensure the longevity of our living history.

"Our thanks go to everyone who has supported us, including The National Lottery Heritage Fund. We can’t wait for the bells to ring out in celebration - with big thanks to National Lottery Players.”

Neal Dodge of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers said they were "thrilled" at the success of the villagers' Lottery bid.

"It’s great the village has already shown such enthusiasm for the return of change ringing to their community as it’s such an integral part of English culture and life," he said.

"This isn’t just about preserving the past but ensuring our living cultural heritage is secured for the future."

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