Bell ringers at St. Anne’s, Highgate, London: John Thorp, George Morley, Bill Bishop, Brian Hummel, Grant Meekings, and Peter Foote.

Bell ringers in north London are appealing internationally to help save their surviving 19th Century peal of eight bells at St. Anne's, Highgate.

A similar peal of bells in Holy Trinity Cathedral, New Westminster, donated by the same person, perished in a fire in that city in 1898.

John Thorp, captain of the ringers, said that Highgate's local wealthy benefactor, Angela (later Baroness) Burdett-Coutts, gave the parish £603 for the peal some 151 years ago.

Miss Burdett-Coutts was largely responsible for the missionary Diocese of BC - which till 1879 covered the province. She gave £15,000 (a hugh sum then) to endow the church in the far-off colony of British Columbia.

She had a penchant for giving parishes bells. She gave one to the new church in Barkerville. A bell given by the baroness to a church at Donald, BC, was stolen by a parishioner of St. Paul's, Golden, where it now hangs.

Thorp said that bearings of the St. Anne's Highgate bells are indented where the clappers strike, the clappers are flattened with wear, and the bearings are very worn and noisy. The ringers also want improvements made to channel the sound upwards, away from close neighbours so that it spreads over a wider area of Highgate and across Hampstead Heath.

The fate of Holy Trinity Cathedral's peal of bells after the fire of 1898 in New Westminster (From Pacific Pilgrims by Lyndon Grove).

The bells are one of only a few full peals of bells hung for the tradition of full-circle "change-ringing" in North London. They were referred to by the former British poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in his verse autobiography "Summoned by Bells." He was baptised in St Anne's and lived within the sound of the bells as a child. They are still rung regularly, by a band whose ages range from 16 to 80.

Thorp said restoration of the bells will cost about £40,000. Those interested in contributing can contact the St. Anne's ringers at 27 Coldfall Ave., London N10 1HS, or email [email protected].