St Augustine's 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
Scaffolders, stone masons, carpenters and electricians
have been 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
has been removed and replaced with lime based render. Stonework
has been 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 has been replaced, and new
electrical wiring and lighting installed. Repairs on the tower
roof have included a new door and the weather vane has been
refurbished and painted up in a gold colour.
In the belfry the bell frame ends have been
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 February 2019 including
refurbishing the clappers, hinge pins and other items. New
ropes are scheduled to be fitted in May.
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.
Meanwhile as part of the Tower Project and Heritage
Lottery Funding, we are working on a local heritage project
with Locking Primary school about the church, Locking village,
the airfield and the former RAF camp. This includes 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