Bernard Masterman loves the bells of St Giles’ Church in Oxford so much he has handed over £27,000 from his savings to update them.

The former Cowley car factory worker, who has been blind since birth, has been ringing the bells since 1973.

He said he was delighted to play such a major part in the £55,000 fundraising campaign to retune and rehang the historic bells, which date back as far as 1632.

Along with Mr Masterman’s donation, other bellringing associations have pledged money, and the church now needs to raise only £15,000 before work can start.

Mr Masterman, 67, from Botley, said: “I started bellringing here in 1973, because I thought it would be a good way to meet people. I have been here ever since.

“I can play a full part as a bellringer at St Giles and hearing the bells ring gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

“I had some savings, so I thought I would make a donation, because bellringing here has been a big part of my life.”

The bellringers announced their fundraising campaign on Sunday at a service featuring anthems to bells, which were specially arranged by organist Andrew Patterson.

Readings were given by some of the bellringing team, and artists Sheila Boswell and Weimin He have provided sketches to go on display to encourage churchgoers to make donations Dr John Pusey, captain of the ringers at the church, said: “The bells vary in age, with the oldest dating back to 1632. Then there are five from 1850 and two from 1927.

“The moving parts are going to be replaced – axles, bearings, pulleys and woodwork – because this has not been done since the 1960s.

“The bells themselves are musically imperfect, so they need to be taken down and altered as part of the re- tuning process.

“The bells were last retuned in the 1960s but the techniques of retuning have been refined since then, so it needs to be done again.”

Dr Pusey said he hoped work on the bells would begin later this year, after the money needed to complete the work has been raised.

The rehanging will be carried out by Whites of Appleton, who will take the bells to the 500-year-old Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London for retuning by specialists.

Dr Pusey said he hoped the bells could be removed in August.

The work in the tower and on the bells themselves is expected to take three months to complete.