CARHAMPTON residents are celebrating a return to their iconic parish church, out of bounds for a year after it was feared a 20ft pinnacle on top of the tower was unsafe and could crash through the roof.

Since last March, church events have been switched to Carhampton village hall and St John the Baptist church remained locked while architects and engineers planned repairs which will include a balance weight to minimise future movement in the pinnacle

Now the dangerous stonework has been dismantled, allowing the church to be used once again. Rebuilding will begin in April when the damaged stone at the base of the pinnacle is replaced

“It is lovely to be back in St John’s after such a long time,” Carhampton’s vicar, the Rev Caroline Ralph, said this week. “There was a good congregation at the first service last Sunday although the services in the village hall worked surprisingly well and our bell-ringers were able to ring in other churches in the benefice.

“They are very much hoping that things will get back to normal and that they can ring for the King at the Coronation.”

A year ago it was found that stones had fractured the base of one of the tower’s four pinnacles due to storm-force winds. “We reluctantly had to close the church and rope off part of the churchyard to be on the safe side,” the Rev Ralph said.

It is hoped that specialist stone-masons will begin rebuilding the pinnacle at the end of the month and until then the church bells - which have been silent for a year - will be rung again although ringing will temporarily stop during construction work.

The Rev Ralph added: “This is about the third or fourth time there have been problems with the pinnacles. It happened in 1956 and 2002 but this time the reason was storm damage rather than wear and tear and the work will be covered by insurance.”

“The work will not stop us using the church and hopefully services and other events will go on as usual. Everyone in the village is pleased to have the church back.”

And the future? In the church newsletter the Rev Ralph remarked: “I have been asked about taking down both the other pinnacles so that this will not happen again.

“Unfortunately I fear the cost would be prohibitive and I doubt whether we would receive permission from the diocese and the Victorian Society.”