For a brief moment it looked as if Basildon's belltower had been put on the market.

Bemused passers-by stopped in their tracks yesterday (Wednesday) after a For Sale sign was pinned to metal fencing surrounding the town's unfinished landmark.

However, on closer inspection it became clear the notice was a spoof, lovingly crafted by a mystery scribe keen to see the funny side of the tower's demise.

The sign read: "For Sale!! One belltower...Never used, unwanted gift, quick cash sale required...Hence price....£250,000 only.

The belltower has become mired in more than £500,000 in debts while Canon Lionel Webber was rector at St Martin's. The parochial church council of St Martin's may have to sell its "fixed assets" to meet the mounting bills.

Eric Thomson, former treasurer of the PCC, said it was disappointing there had been this sort of reaction.

Joke poster - the sign put up outside Basildon's belltower. The Echo has masked out some offending words on the photograph

Picture: ELISE GOW

Converted for the new archive on 19 November 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.