Ledbury Bellringers are celebrating an early Christmas present in the shape of a £100,000 Lottery award.

The windfall is essential towards the complete refurbishment and repair of the bells in the 13th century tower of St Michael and All Angel's Church, and the tower itself is set to become a community facility and attraction.

Tower captain, Tim Keyes said: "Central to the project and the funding are two strands: a commitment to engage young people in both learning to ring and learning about how bellringing has developed in places like Ledbury over time, and creating an exhibition space in the tower, open to the local community, which will explain what bellringing is all about and illustrate this with colourful stories and references to history, literature and music.

"We look forward to welcoming many groups and individuals to see ringing in action, to learn the skill themselves or to be part of guided tours and talks. As part of all this, we will be installing specialist teaching equipment and modernising the facilities in the tower in important ways, including repairs to stonework, woodwork, décor and windows, re-wiring and the installation for CCTV."

And thanks to the Lottery award, all this will happen quickly.

Mr Keyes said: " We hope that work will be able to start in January. The project should be finished around the end of April.

“We are thrilled that this grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, along with the wonderful support of the local community, has given us the green light to proceed with a project that will offer a really rewarding hobby to people of all ages in Ledbury and will make a fascinating contribution to the celebration of the rich history of our town."

But the fund-raising isn't over.

Mr Keyes said: "Now we need a further £60,000 to £70,000 in the next few weeks to ensure that all aspects of the project can go ahead. There are various sponsorship opportunities for having the names of individuals, families or organisations officially recognised in plaques in the tower for posterity. If people would like to hear more about this, they are very welcome to contact me (thkeyes28@hotmail.com). ”

The tower of St Michael’s is most unusual in that it is separate from the church. This means that at present very few people apart from bellringers ever enter it.

Mr Keyes said: "This grant from the National Lottery and the generosity of local people will now enable the tower to be a building that is understood and visited by a large number of people of all ages in the town and surrounding area. This will require the involvement of a number of volunteers including the bellringers themselves, local historians, and others who would like to learn and practice communication and presentational skills."

The last time that any major work took place in the tower was in 1951 when poet John Masefield helped to rescue the bells from a serious state of disrepair.

Mr Keyes added: "Now major restoration work is needed once again. We will be taking the opportunity to replace two bells which are of lower quality than the others, and to add two additional lighter bells which will be easier both for learners and senior ringers to manage."