A church in Bushey has raised £21,000 to restore the historic bells of Bushey Parish Church which have been ringing out over Bushey for the last 500 years, but still needs another £60,000.

St James' Church dates back to the 14th Century and has eight bells in the tower, two dating back before the Great Fire of London.

Sue Morton, the tower captain, said the bell ringers will not stop until the full amount of money is raised.

She said: "Bells have been sounding out here for at least 500 years, but without a major restoration they will fall silent.

"The bells are becoming difficult to ring because the fittings are wearing out.

"We aim to create a ring of bells that will ring out in Bushey for the next 100 years or more. We believe that people will want to contribute to maintaining an important local heritage."

The church bells are rung by 12 volunteers, whose ages range from 22 to 81. They train once a week and ring twice on a Sunday.

The bells are used for church services, weddings and special occasions of local or national significance by pulling ropes around wheels attached to the bells.

The restoration work would involve hanging the bells in a new frame and renewing fittings. The bells will also be retuned using modern tuning equipment to improve the quality of sound.

Mrs Morton, 48, continued: "It wouldn’t be Bushey without the bells. They add to the whole community feel of the place.

"I have been bell ringing since I was about nine or ten. I met my husband ringing, my father met my mother ringing, my sister met her husband ringing and my son met his wife ringing.

"It would be so sad to lose these musical instruments, so we will not stop until the bells are restored."

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The oldest bell in the tower dates back to the 15th Century, and was believed to have been cast in the churchyard itself.

Five more bells were added around 1880 when the whole church had a major makeover.

Marc McDonald has been ringing for the past six years, and said he is considering different fundraising ideas to raise money.

The 22-year-old music producer and songwriter said: "I absolutely love bell ringing. I love the musical side and the social aspect.

"I think of it as exercise without the price of a gym membership.

"I learnt to ring in Bushey and would love to see the bells restored so they can ring out for many years to come."

To date, £21,000 has been raised for the restoration work, which would take around three months. People are being invited to sponsor a bell or make a donation in memory of a loved one.

To donate visit: http://www.gofundme.com/savebusheybells.