AXED bellringers have returned to the Minster to collect their personal belongings.

The volunteer ringers went back last night to pick up possessions, and also items belonging to the York Minster Society of Change Ringers, including some hand bells.

A small number are understood to have been escorted to the tower to remove a small number of items which had not already been taken away for them by Minster staff.

A Minster spokeswoman said: "A number of personal items belonging to the bell ringers were removed from the tower and were collected by the bell ringers yesterday evening."

More than 17,000 people have now signed an online petition, calling for the volunteers to be allowed to ring the bells again on Remembrance Sunday, Christmas Day and New Years Eve.

The Minster spokeswoman said: "On Remembrance Sunday there will, as always, be a muffled peal of the Great Peter bell – traditionally performed by our vergers - not the ringers. In terms of Christmas and New Year, nothing more to add."

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said yesterday she believed last week's axing of all 30 ringers had been ‘disproportionate’, and claimed the Minster’s management and communications could be ‘vastly improved.’

The MP was speaking after meeting a ‘very upset and confused’ delegation of volunteer ringers at the weekend and after the Archbishop of York strongly defended the decision to dismiss the ringers on Monday.

He said it had happened after safeguarding issues had arisen and members of the society had consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority - a claim strongly denied by the society.

Ms Maskell said safeguarding was clearly important but she believed it should have been possible to address such issues without dismissing all the ringers and leaving no bells on important days such as Remembrance Sunday.

She said she had written to the Minster to press for dialogue and engagement with the bellringing community to resolve the dispute and get the bells ringing again.

The Minster spokeswoman said today that the Dean had had a private conversation with the MP yesterday.