CHURCH bells which have called a town to prayer and been the centre of celebrations for centuries need major repairs which could cost up to £150,000.

The rector of Bedale, the Reverend Ian Robinson, said one of the bells at St Gregory’s Church, the Sanctus bell, has had to be taken out of service and urgently needs repairing.

But the church has also been investigating extensive work on the whole set of bells – replacing the bell frame, recasting two of them and installing new fittings and retuning the others.

The oldest one, the tenor bell, dates from 1350 and was brought to the church from Jervaulx Abbey. However, it is so difficult to ring it is rarely heard.

Mr Robinson said there had been problems for many years.

“The original under engineering of the frame in the late 19th century and subsequent movement in the timbers due to the variation in climate are making ringing ever more difficult,” he said.

“Furthermore, the nature of the frame and its deterioration has made teaching new bell ringers ever more problematic.”

Mr Robinson is now asking Bedale town councillors and local residents for their backing so he can go to the church authorities to see if an appeal can be launched.