MILLIONS of people have heard the pealing of one of the nation’s most well-known church bells ring out.

They feature on BBC One’s hit detective drama Father Brown starring Mark Williams as the crime-busting priest in author GK Chesterton’s stories.

Now St Peter and St Paul at Blockley, near Moreton, which doubles as the programme’s Roman Catholic St Mary’s Church, has launched an appeal to restore and improve its eight bells to the tune of £120,000, as well as add a further two new bells to the collection.

Resident rector Dana Delap hopes a pioneering and poignant fundraising idea will capture people’s hearts as much as the 1950s sleuthing series.

“We urgently need to replace the Victorian iron bell frame which has been rusting as the church tower roof was leaking, but this also presents an opportunity to add two more bells,” she said. “Blockley has one of the Cotswolds’ best peal of bells and we’d like to take it to ten, making it easier for children and beginners to join our ringers’ team. Donors’ names, or those of someone they want to remember, can be cast into the new £12,000 bells and also into the planned eight new £4,000 headstocks for the existing bells. These names will live on for centuries and always be in people’s minds as the bells ring out over the valley.”

She added: “Every donor’s name will also appear in a special Book of Bells, which will include the village bells’ history from the earliest 17th century to the most modern to be cast early next year.”

Scaffolding has shrouded the landmark church tower as the roof was made watertight in the project’s first phase, funded by a £62,000 Heritage At Risk Roof Repair Fund. But the lead was taken off the day before a huge downpour at the end of February, soaking the ringing room adding to the bell frame’s decay.

Blockley Tower Captain Ann Bourne said: “We want to replace it with a stainless steel one – the Rolls Royce of bell frames. At the moment, when you ring the heaviest bells there’s a heck of a force. The current frame and wall stones really vibrate and long-term this unsafe.”

The church aims to raise the £120,000 target by October and start work in January. The church clock should also be refurbished and a new toilet put in the tower entrance. Grant applications are going out and donations coming in, such as £11,700 from Gloucester and Bristol Bellringers Association. Villagers have raised around £35,000 so far.

Dana confesses she was ‘converted’ to the cause. “When I came here I wasn’t terribly excited about raising money for bells and not convinced it would help the church’s mission,” she revealed. “And I found it quite extraordinary how much excitement and passion there is in the village about restoring them to their former glory. But they are for the village in a way Sunday services aren’t because they ring out and make people think. They not only call us to worship but ring for national events, for personal celebrations and in times of crisis. And I find it enormously moving to hear them muffled for the funeral of someone who’s lived here.”

In May, the TV crew returns to shoot series five of Father Brown, based at the church and vicarage, which becomes a presbytery, as well as venues around the Cotswolds including Longborough, Sudeley Castle and Upper Slaughter.

For more details and how to donate to the bells appeal visit