CHURCH bells will ring out across Little Paxton for the first time in a century after villagers won a £50,000 prize to restore an ancient tower.

Little Paxton Has Bell Appeal triumphed in a television vote to scoop the Big Lottery Fund grant as part of ITV's People's Millions competition.

The money means the village will be able to end its 100-year silence and renovate four historic bells, as well as install two new ones, to use at weddings, ceremonies and church services.

Huge engineering work means builders won't have the bells ready in time for next year's Royal wedding, on April 29, but The Reverend Annette Reed said: “It will be worth it at the end.

“It is a great feeling to succeed but we only won because of the support of the village and the vast numbers of people who rang in.”

The phone lines opened for a limited period only on Wednesday (November 24) to allow voters to choose between Little Paxton Has Bell Appeal and a bid to restore a historic steam roller in Northamptonshire.

Peter Hagger, treasurer at St James' Church, was inundated with calls asking him for the hotline number so they could vote and push Little Paxton over the finish line.

The news came after 6pm the following day, when ITV Anglia announced the result live on air in front of a group of excited primary school children.

“This is a great result for people in Little Paxton and just goes to show what groups can achieve when they have the support of the community behind them,” Big Lottery Fund regional head Sara Betsworth said.

Work to re-hang the four old bells, one of which dates back to 1610, is due to start in January next year.

Engineering work then has to be completed on the ancient church tower so it can withstand the vibrations of a full set of ringing bells before the four old bells are reinstalled, along with two new ones.

The St James' Church clock mechanism will also be renovated at the same time.

“We have had lots of emails saying well done and people coming up to us in the street to say what great news it is,” The Rev Reed said.