Noise complaints could be death knell for Betjeman's church bells

A set of Victorian church bells praised by the poet Sir John Betjeman could be silenced after claims from a local pub landlord that they "drive him nuts".

The bells of St Peter and St Paul Church in Wantage, Oxfordshire, have sounded since 1897, marking time every 15 minutes, day and night, with longer, more elaborate, rings every three hours. But Graham Taylor, who has been landlord of the 17th century Swan pub next door for two years, claims that the ringing has given him continuous sleeping difficulties.

"It goes on and on. If you are having a restless night it drives you nuts," he said.

The problem came to a head last month when Mr Taylor walked into the church during a Sunday service, shouting: "What about love thy neighbour?" in front of a congregation of 150 people.

Mr Taylor has complained to the Vale of the White Horse District Council, which is monitoring the sound levels. He also says he has gathered 50 signatures on a petition calling for them to be switched off at night.

Father John Salter, the parish priest, said the cost of altering the bells to switch them off at night could mean they would have to be turned off altogether.

He also said that the chimes had been part of the town's charm for more than 100 years. "John Betjeman attended the parish church for 21 years. He was very concerned about the fabric and loved its bells. John Betjeman also lived in Wantage, and would have heard them ringing throughout the night."

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