BELLRINGERS at Leeds Minster have turned down an invitation to ring York Minster’s bells at its Christmas services, in an ‘act of solidarity’ with York’s axed ringers.

Deputy ringing master Robert Childs said members discussed the invitation from York’s Dean and Chapter during a practice session, and 13 members voted no, with two abstaining.

He said Leeds’ ringers would normally have relished the opportunity to ring York’s bells, which were the finest in the country in terms of the sound.

However, many of them knew York’s team of 30 volunteer ringers, who were all dismissed by the Dean and Chapter in the autumn, and felt they could not ring the bells in their place.

“They felt it would be the wrong thing to do,” he said. “You could see it as an act of solidarity with our fellow bellringers in York.”

He hoped York’s problems would be resolved as soon as possible.

A York Minster spokeswoman said yesterday: “We can’t comment for Leeds Minster or their bell ringers. It wouldn’t be appropriate or courteous.”

Asked whether other teams had taken a different stance and agreed to come and ring York’s bells, she said :” As soon as we have finalised our plans, the people of York will be the first to know.”

She said the Chapter was ‘busy making exciting plans’ for future bell ringing arrangements at the Minster, and had learned that Yorkshire had many wonderfully talented ringers.

“One of our main ambitions is to make our Tower more accessible and welcoming to those who have already expressed an interest in volunteering for our bell tower and we also keen to respond to those who have expressed an interest in learning bell ringing in the future.”

More than 17,000 people signed a petition calling for York’s ringers to be reinstated after they were axed in October.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, later backed the decision, saying the team was disbanded because some members of the Minster Society of Change Ringers had consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority - a claim which the society denied.