Francis Shergold, one of the leading figures in morris dancing, has died at the age of 89.

Throughout his 60 years as a dancer, he helped put his home village of Bampton in west Oxfordshire at the forefront of traditional English dancing.

But he was also a stalwart bellringer, clocking up more than 50 years of service in the tower of the village church of St Mary’s.

He was born in Black Bourton, one of four children, and came with his family to Bampton in 1931 after early years of moving from village to village as his father sought work as a farm labourer.

His sister, Ruth Wheeler, remembers that the young Francis went to eleven different schools before he left at 14 to become a stable lad. He went on to become a head gardener before retirement.

His introduction to Morris dancing was with one of the legends, fiddle player Jinky Wells, who was with the Bampton Morris — a side with an unbroken tradition stretching back 600 years.

His lifelong passion for dancing lasted until his late 70s, leading his own side and always at the centre of the now famous Whit Bank Holiday gathering of morris dancers in Bampton.

One of his proudest moments came last year when he was introduced to Prince Charles on a royal visit to the Wychwood Brewery in Witney and chatted briefly with him. He was also proud of his service in the Army during the Second World War when he was wounded twice and escaped death from a bullet that hit a compass in his pocket.

Mr Shergold married his childhood sweetheart in 1940. He not only lost his only child soon after birth, but also his wife at a young age.

He remarried again in 1951 to Ann, a union that lasted 54 years before her death two years ago.

Mrs Wheeler said: “He was well-known, I should think, by nearly everyone in the village.

“He would have made a lovely dad. He used to teach country dancing to the children at the old village school and they all remembered him for it.”

The funeral is on Monday at 2pm in St Mary’s Church, Bampton.

David Rose, who was a bellringer with him for over 20 years, said they would be ringing out a muffled peal for him as a mark of respect.