AN historic Oxenhope church with links to the Bronte family will share in a £550,000 funding payout from the National Churches Trust to 30 churches and chapels in the UK

The funding from the National Churches Trust includes £15,000 for Oxenhope's St Mary the Virgin Church. Custodians of the Grade II listed building, in Hebden Road, will use the cash to help fund urgently-needed repairs to the church tower as part of a £120,000 project.

The welcome news of the latest £15,000 adds to the £26,000 the church has secured via pledges from its congregation, £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund working with English Heritage and £15,000 from other grant providers.

Reacting to the announcement of the cash from the National Churches Trust, St Mary's Oxenhope priest in charge Reverend Nigel Wright said: "I'm absolutely delighted and very grateful.

"We'd only asked for £10,000 because we didn't want to appear greedy, but they said they liked what we were doing and that we could have the full £15,000. It is amazing."

Reverend Wright added that the church's exposed location means it often gets a battering from harsh weather sweeping down off the moors.

"The church had received some more modern re-plastering which has not worked and the leaks have been getting worse," he said.

"Last winter we had to stop using the rooms in the tower for a while which was devastating, because all sorts of local groups make use of them."

In 1845, Reverend Patrick Bronte, father of the famous novelist sisters Charlotte, Anne and Emily, appointed the then curate, Reverend Joseph Brett Grant, to take charge of the newly formed ecclesiastical district, now know as Oxenhope village parish.

Reverend Grant began holding services in a nearby wool combing shop. Within a year he had raised enough money to build a day school, which served as a Sunday school and church.

He was a tireless worker who collected money for a purpose-built new church. According to Charlotte Bronte he wore out 14 pairs of shoes in his quest for money.

His efforts were rewarded on February 14 1849 when the foundation stone for St Mary's was laid.

The church was built from millstone grit with stone and natural slate roofs. The square west end tower is 44-feet high and houses two levels of meeting rooms, which were added in 1991.

The tower contains a ring of eight bells, which are rung twice weekly, and also by visiting bell-ringers. The church welcomes adult newcomers and children to learn to ring the bells, and an electronic, silent bell ringing simulator is used for this, so as not to disturb neighbours.