THE bell tower of St James’s Church in Little Paxton will be silent for several months.

The four bells, one of them more than four centuries old, and clock have now been removed for restoration. If all goes to schedule, the work will be completed in November and the bells will be ringing for Christmas.

Parts of the ancient church date from the 12th century, and there have been additions in every century since then.

The oldest and lightest bell was cast in 1610. The newest was cast by Taylors at their St Neots works in 1791.

The bells are being restored by Taylors, now based in Loughborough, and it was a descendent of Robert Taylor of St Neots who removed the bells last week. The clock, which was also made by Taylors, is being restored by Smiths of Derby.

Little Paxton's Vicar, the Rev Annette Reed said she found it quite emotional after several years hard work to realise that the bells were definitely going to be rung again.

When the bells ring out over the village for Christmas, there will be six of them in a new steel frame, including two redundant bells from other churches. One of the original bells will become the chime for the restored clock. It will be the only one sitting in the old wooden frame, which is no longer strong enough and will shortly be hauled to the top of the tower.

Church treasurer Peter Hagger said the £200,000 work on the bell tower was part of a £400,000 project that would include re-ordering the church next year, removing the Victorian pews, replacing them with oak chairs, re-wiring and installing under-floor heating.

The bell tower work is partly funded - to the tune of £50,000 - by the Big Lottery, and £43,000 of landfill grant, provided through Waste Recycling Environmental, will help pay for next year's work.