Sustainable Development Fund:

St Mary's Church, East Bergholt

Photo credit: Michael Pinckard

Photo credit: Michael Pinckard

The Dedham Vale National Landscape is funded by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and local authorities to deliver the purposes of the AONB designation.

The Sustainable Development Fund is available to a variety of local community and conservation organisations or individuals to support projects for the conservation and enhancement of the National Landscape.

For the 2021-22 funding year, St Mary’s Church in East Bergholt has been awarded £3,000 to support the placement of a freestanding digital screen inside the church to educate tourists, members of the local community, and school children about the Grade 1 listed medieval church, and unique bell cage.

St Mary’s Church is centred in East Bergholt which lies within the Dedham Vale National Landscape. It is a medieval church with an interesting history, and a significant connection to the artist John Constable and his family.

The church bells are housed in a unique ground level “temporary” building, as work to the church tower ceased in the 15th century. They are the only set of five bells rung by hand in this country and are a huge attraction for many tourists visiting the Dedham Vale. The bells are regularly rung on Sundays, and Wednesday evenings.

Liz Digby, Churchwarden at St Mary’s Church said: “We have already started a total roof replacement project at St Mary’s Church, East Bergholt which is requiring significant fundraising from many sources, and has also required us to look at new ways to improve what we offer to our community, schools and tourists.

At the moment we have a very old TV with a DVD showing tourist groups how the bells are rung. This DVD is outdated, and of course requires someone to be present in the church to show groups.

We decided that a freestanding digital display, showing the bells being rung, and with some accompanying commentary about the technique, the bell cage structure, and the history behind why it exists, would be a great asset to our church.

Visitors would be able access this information without someone being there to show them, and it would be available all year round. We therefore applied to the National Landscape Sustainable Development Fund for help with funding this and we were delighted to hear in June 2021 that the Panel had awarded us with a grant to purchase one freestanding digital display.

Our ultimate aim is to have a museum within the church, but this will require some reordering, and this will take time to complete. However, we are also extremely grateful to the National Landscape Sustainable Development Fund Panel for their offer to help us with another grant to purchase one more digital display once the museum is up and running.”