Fire-hit Royston church: Return of bells marks 'progress'

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image copyrightSt John the Baptist
image captionThe church's vicar, the Reverend Heidi Huntley, said a prayer to thank all for the bells' safe return

A church devastated by fire two years ago has marked the return of its bells.

The blaze at St John the Baptist church in Royston, Hertfordshire, ravaged interior woodwork, the roof and tower when it broke out on 9 December 2018.

All eight bells, some of which date back to 1739, were also damaged and had to be taken away to be recast.

The repaired bells were returned to the church on Wednesday and will take two weeks to be rehung. The church's team said their return signalled "progress".

The Reverend Heidi Huntley said a prayer to thank all for the bells' safe return.

image copyrightSt John the Baptist
image captionAll eight bells, some of which date back to 1739, were damaged in the fire
image copyrightSt John the Baptist
image captionThe bells were taken away to be recast

Treasurer Phil Burchell said it would be "some time" before their tones would ring out once again over Royston, "something we can't wait to hear".

But, he said, their return represented "an exciting, visible sign of the progress being made".

image copyrightBCH Road Policing
image captionThe fire broke out at St John the Baptist church in Royston during Advent in 2018

Work on the tower has been completed, the roof has been made watertight and a temporary cover and scaffolding were removed just before Christmas.

Mr Burchell said: "There is still some way to go as we prepare to turn our attention to the work required on the inside of the church, which will transform the building into one which we see as being a friendly, welcoming one for the use of the community in Royston.

"This will take several months to complete before we can all meet again, Covid willing, in this beautiful place."

image copyrightArun Kataria
image captionScaffolding that shrouded the 13th Century church was recently removed
image copyrightSt John the Baptist Church
image captionWork on the tower is now complete and the higher level of the church can be seen

Mr Burchell previously said it was hoped worshippers could return to the 13th Century building by Christmas 2021.

Investigators ruled out arson and the church said much of the work would be covered by insurance.

However, £60,000 has been raised through cash donations and a further £16,000 generated through a "sponsor a chair" scheme.

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