Bells to chime again at Ipswich’s St Margaret’s Church thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund

Rev David Cutts with Keth Jones, Stan Gaskin, Lucy Drake, Jon Grierson, John Gert.

Rev David Cutts with Keth Jones, Stan Gaskin, Lucy Drake, Jon Grierson, John Gert. - Credit: Archant

An historic church in Ipswich will be ringing in a new era in its 700-year history after securing nearly £164,000 to restore and re-hang its bells and re-open to the public.

St Margaret's Church in Ipswich.

St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

St Margaret’s Church, next to Christchurch Park in Ipswich, has been granted £163,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Project bosses have said will be used to repair and re-hang the 450-year-old bells with a ringing gallery lower in the tower so it is visible from within the church, and introduce a structured programme to help teach and train a new generation of bell-ringers.

The grant will also enable the church to create an improved visitor experience.

St Margaret's Church in Ipswich.

St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “The bells at St Margaret’s have been ringing for more than 450 years and now, thanks to National Lottery players, their future as part of Ipswich’s heritage is bright.


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“We’re delighted to support this project which will enable not only the sound of the bells to be heard for generations to come but also their story and that of their historic home, which will be open once again as a place for people and communities.”

The remainder of the £262,000 overhaul has been funded thanks to the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, church members and private donations.

Rev David Cutts at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich.

Rev David Cutts at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

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The medieval church was forced to close its doors to the public in 2011 after a catalogue of thefts, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, only opening for services and Ipswich Music Day performances.

Now, the grant means that necessary security measures such as 24-hour CCTV can be put in place, allowing the Grade I-listed building to be open during the week for prayer, and visits for those exploring the church’s heritage.

Work will begin early this year and be completed with an opening in 2018.

Bell ringers Dan Armstrong, Roger Coley, Margaret Llewellyn, Saffron Burdett, Angie Cable, Laura Arm

Bell ringers Dan Armstrong, Roger Coley, Margaret Llewellyn, Saffron Burdett, Angie Cable, Laura Armstrong, Shirley Girt, Denise Potter and John Girt. - Credit: Archant

Carole Jones, portfolio holder for development at Ipswich Borough Council said: “We welcome this major grant to improve one of our most historic and best loved buildings in Ipswich.

“Being so close to the town centre and Christchurch Mansion means that the refurbished St Margaret’s will be an even bigger attraction for residents and visitors.”

Among the improvements being made are new display booklets and guides, new lighting for the ornate carved and painted nave, and work to produce a guide and oral history for the nearby St Margaret’s Primary School.

Rev David Cutts with Keth Jones, Stan Gaskin, Lucy Drake, Jon Grierson, John Gert.

Rev David Cutts with Keth Jones, Stan Gaskin, Lucy Drake, Jon Grierson, John Gert. - Credit: Archant

Canon David Cutts, vicar of St Margaret’s said: “Bell ringing is a very significant part of the life of the church, calling people to worship each Sunday and celebrating special events such as marriages. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their generous support in giving us the opportunity to renovate the bells. This project will also enable the church to be open more often for people from the community to come and pray and for visitors to appreciate the fine historical building.”

Re-hanging the bells

One of the headline features of the new-look St Margaret’s will be an impressive bell-ringing gallery visible from within the church.

John Girt teaching bell ringing to Saffron Burdett.

John Girt teaching bell ringing to Saffron Burdett. - Credit: Archant

The 450-year-old bells were last re-hung in 1899 but teams then encountered a host of problems.

To remedy those, a new gallery will be made lower down the tower while the deteriorated bells and bearings will be restored and retuned in a new bell frame.

A spokesman for the church’s revamp said a structured teaching programme will be run by trained bell-ringers including simulations and videos, with a particular focus on encouraging schools and youth groups to take up the hobby.

John Girt in the Bell Tower at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich.

John Girt in the Bell Tower at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

The tower clock made in 1778 will also be refurbished with an electronic winder and regulator to remove the need for weekly hand-winding.

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