A BELL ringer was taken to hospital with pelvic injuries after he was crushed by a bell in the tower of Christchurch Priory on Tuesday.

Rescuers including fire crews and ambulance staff spent nearly two hours extricating the injured man in his 60s from the cramped confines of the bell chamber behind the clock face some 70 feet and more than 100 steps up the tower.

The delicate operation involved 20 firefighters including crews from Christchurch and specialist rescue units from Poole and Weymouth.

They used ropes to gently lower the man down part of the narrow spiral stone staircase to the triforium gallery above the north nave aisle just inside the main entrance to the 11th century building.

From there he was lowered on a stretcher to the ground and transferred to a waiting ambulance which took him to Poole hospital.

The man, who has not been named, was said to be conscious and in good spirits during his ordeal and was accompanied to the hospital by his wife.

Another man, who was working with him in the tower where they were carrying out maintenance work on the bells, suffered slight leg injuries and was also taken to hospital following the incident which occurred at around 12.30pm.

It is thought the men were working on one of the bells weighing around a ton when it slipped from its mounting.

Dorset Fire and Rescue Station Manager Louis Minchella, who co-ordinated the rescue, said: "The main difficulty we had was that the only access was the narrow spiral staircase and space was at a premium.

"Due to the nature of the injuries and the location the rescue took quite a long time."

Vicar of Christchurch, Rev Canon Hugh Williams, who was at the scene, praised the emergency services and said special prayers would be said for the injured men.

"Certainly they will be very much in our thoughts and prayers and we hope their injuries will not be too serious and they will make a full recovery," he said.