CHURCH bells which have rung out for more than 460 years could soon fall silent - through a lack of ringers.

But in a bid to ensure the peals continue, posters pleading for help have been distributed around Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon.

The ringing crisis at St Andrew's Church, known as the Cathedral of the Moors because of its setting on the fringe of Dallowgill, has emerged because of ageing ringers and retirements.

Ringing master Douglas Kerr, who has also issued posters around nearby Laverton and Galphay in a bid to find recruits, said: "We are making a determined effort to ensure the tradition of ringing the church bells does not simply die.

"It would be terrible if they fell silent through lack of ringers."

There are six bells in the church tower. Four were presented to the church in 1539 when Knaresborough Priory gave away its bells following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Two others were added in 1866.

Mr Kerr, who is 83, said: "We have been struggling to find enough ringers for a while. There is a general shortage of bellringers these days, so we decided to try to recruit younger ringers if possible."

Ringers are in action at 10am on Sundays for morning services, and meet to practise their skills on Thursday nights between 7.30pm and 9pm.

Anyone interested is asked to contact Mr Kerr on (01765) 658100.