THE Bishop of Salisbury rung the bells of St Mary's to bless the hard work of the Puddletown congregation.

The Rt Revered Nicolas Holtam visited St Mary the Virgin to pay tribute to two men whose efforts have enabled the congregation to once again worship in a warm church after two years without heating.

David Illingworth and Jim Wilson were honoured in a special service led by the Bishop in recognition of their fundraising and dedication to ensure a new state-of the-art heating system was installed in the church.

David, an architect and organ advisor, and Jim, a tireless church fundraiser well known throughout the diocese, were presented with gifts from Revered Holtham.

Parishioner Rod Hughes said: "The church has been closed for the last few months whilst the new system was installed.

"Up until then church worshippers had to endure Mediaeval conditions following the demise of our previous installation.

"The conditions were so bad that for the previous two years, winter services had to be held in the adjoining church room.

"But now finally, after all the waiting, we can now look forward to once again worshipping God, in our fine church, that is now nice and warm."

To add to the celebratory mood, the church also took receipt of a £9,500 cheque from the Historic Churches Trust at the ceremony as a contribution toward the work.

The bell ringing was an unexpected alteration to the ceremonial schedule when the Bishop requested to join tower captain Robin Mears and the other ringers to ring out over the village.

Rod added: "It was truly a unique occurrence since I do not believe that we’ve ever had a Bishop ringing the bells before at Puddletown.

"All church services are glorious occasions but this particular service was extra magnificent, with such a positive and special reason to give thanks to God."