A CHURCH congregation has secured initial funding of £22,000 to develop conservation plans to save its age-old clock tower.

Saint Thomas' Church, Moorside, was awarded the finances from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to produce detailed surveys and structural designs after the elegant tower began leaking.

In the next phase of the grant application, the plans will be considered by the HLF and a final decision will be made on whether to award full funding of £139,500.00.

If successful, it is hoped the repair works will begin in early 2019.

Reverend Denise Owen, priest-in-charge of the 70-strong congregation, said: "We are delighted that we've received this support thanks to National Lottery players.

"The church and its tower are a landmark in this area, and a visible sign of God’s presence in Sholver and Moorside. It’s great to know that we are a step closer to preserving the church for many generations to come."

Saint Thomas', in Glebe Lane, was opened in 1872 at a cost of £10,000, given by mill owner Thomas Mellodew.

The Mellodew family continue to actively support the church which, with its associated church hall, is used by various community groups.

The aims of the conservation project include making the clock tower water tight as well as celebrating the heritage of the church.

Rev Owen, who became priest-in-charge of St Thomas' in September 2017, said: "The latest survey revealed that water was coming through, potentially causing quite serious damage to the tower and stonework.

"Work needed to be done to fix it. Our church wardens and architects are now putting plans together."

Saint Thomas' clock tower is visible on the skyline and the clock face is illuminated at night. Every week, it attracts bell ringers who practise on Monday nights and play on Sunday mornings.

The church is at the centre of community life, with a history group and organisations such as Scouts and Guides among those who meet there.

Further plans are in the making to see the church become a community hub - a space for educational programmes and family activities.

Rev Owen said: "This has always been a place of worship and a place where people come together to give thanks to God.

"It is important for that to continue and that we have a church building to serve the people of our local area."