St Peter's Church in Ropley has been awarded a grant of £62,287 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to rehang the bells in the church tower and introduce new audiences to bell ringing.

The six bells - the largest of which weighs three-quarters of a ton - were salvaged and put in storage after fire nearly destroyed the church on June 19, 2014.

The church was rebuilt and reopened last year, but as costs had risen the installation of the bells needed to wait until there were sufficient funds for them to be rehung.

There are records of bells hanging in the tower going back prior to 1701, when Samuel Knight - an itinerant bell founder - cast five new bells on a site in Ropley.

In 1927 philanthropist and temperance activist Marianna Hagan paid for these bells to be recast, and increased to six, by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon.

This was soon after Gillett and Johnston perfected the art of tuning bells. Before the fire they were regarded as one of the finest rings of six bells in Hampshire.

The lottery project aims to train a new team of bell ringers. Children will help the Ropley History Network and Archive research the history of the bells and bell ringing in the area, and mount a permanent exhibition in the church. A new handbell team will be formed to perform on the set of 32 handbells, maintaining traditions which go back centuries.

Revd Amber Beresford said: “I am absolutely delighted that the hard work and dedication of those who have looked after our bells is now rewarded with this excellent grant that will restore and rehang the bells. I can’t wait to hear the bells ring out, calling us to worship and teaching a new generation this beautiful and ancient tradition.”

Ropley parochial church council treasurer Alan Parsonson said the church planned to hold an annual event “to celebrate the art of bell ringing and the support provided by the National Lottery”.