A campaign has been launched to repair Lyme Regis Parish Church tower which houses one of the most famous peals of bells in the country.

The tower, parts of which are Saxon, is leaking water, mainly through the top of the ringing chamber. It has been the venue for the creation of more world ringing changes records than any other church tower around the globe.

To remove and replace the exterior pebble dash rendering is currently estimated to cost in excess of £150,000.

The church has some funds in its reserves but will need to apply for grant aid and to raise money from other sources.

The first world record was achieved in the tower in 1987 when the event was staged to raise funds for the purchase of two new bells, upping the total from eight to 10.

“Enthusiasts have come from all over the country and abroad, including Australia and New Zealand to peal our bells,” said ringing master Andrew Nicholson.

“No fewer than 16 world ringing records have been set here since 1987, and it is important that we do all we can as soon as possible to carry out the refurbishment of the tower before the damp spreads and threatens other areas of the church.”

Mr Nicholson, whose firm Nicholson Engineering, of Bridport, designs and installs church bells worldwide, has been ringing master at Lyme Regis for 33 years. He is very encouraged by the strength and ability of his present team.

“We have 14 or so members and the team is arguably the best we have had in the past 40 years,” he added.

Local fund raising for the refurbishment has already started and a novel sponsored tower trundle along the new promenade at Lyme Regis is planned for May 12.

Writing in the parish magazine, the Vicar, the Rev Jane Skinner, said: “Now is the time to do the big job of the tower.

“Thankfully, the present church warden, Tim Bacon, is prepared to face this challenge.

“Our Mayor, Michaela Ellis, has announced the tower project as her chosen charity.”

Nothing precise is known of them prior to 1770 when a new ring of six bells was cast for the church by Thomas Bilbie of Cullompton. The fourth bell of this ring of six was recast by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel in 1843. This bell carries the somewhat poignant inscription “O Sea Spare Me”, perhaps a reference to the severe erosion of the foreshore and cliffs near the church.

In 1995 the longest peal of Surprise Royal ever attempted on Church bells anywhere in the world was rung at Lyme, consisting of 20,000 changes and taking almost twelve hours to ring.

The ringers meet every Thursday evening at 7.30pm to practice, and the bells are also rung regularly on a Sunday morning at 9.15 am before the 10.00am service. Beginners and visitors are welcome to attend. For more details contact Linda Nicholson by calling 01297 445865.