Our Bells

A “Ring of bells” is the name bell ringers give to a set of bells hung for English full circle ringing.  The vast majority of “rings” are in church towers in the Anglican church in England and can contain three to sixteen bells, though six and eight bell towers are the most common. They are tuned to the notes of a diatonic scale, and range from a few hundredweight up to as much as four tonnes in weight. They are most commonly associated with churches as the traditional means of calling the congregation to worship.

Many people use the term “peal of bells”, incorrectly, although it’s definition has changed considerably over the years and was one of the motivating factors in the formation of the Central Council of Bellringers in 1891.  Currently, for a performance to be recognised as a peal by the Central Council it must consist of sufficient changes (at least 5,040 on up to seven working bells, or 5000 changes on higher numbers.  For typical tower bells a peal takes around three hours to ring; the time depends on several factors including the number of changes and the weight of the bells, which affects the speed of ringing.

The Anglican church of St Benedict Biscop has one of the southernmost towers of the Lichfield Diocese and the ringers are mostly members of the Lichfield and Walsall Archdeaconries Society for Change The church has a “light” ring of 8 bells, in the key of F#(755Hz). The back six bells (i.e. Nos.3-8 were cast in 1744 by Henry Bagley III, and have the following inscriptions.

Bell NoWeight (CWT)Inscription
34-1-14SAMUEL HELLIER OF THE WOODHOUSES IN THIS PARISH ESQR. 1744

BE IT KNOWN TO ALL THAT HEAR US SING THAT HENRY BAGLEY OF CHALCOMB M'D TH'S RING
44-2-25FRANCIS DOWNING, EDWARD BANTON, ENOECK CARTWRIGHT, IOHN MARCH, IUNIER 1744
55-1-17LIFT UP YOUR VOICES TO THE LORD AND TO THE SAME I DO ACCORD H.B. MADE ME 1744
THOMES POWELL, IOHN SHARWIN, WILLIAM SHAW, THOMAS PARKER, CHURCHWARDENS
66-0-7LAUD GOD WITH PIPE WITH A RING & BELL:
THO' ALL FALL SHORT TO PRAISE HIM WELL:
H.B. 1744
77-0-7WHEN DAY BY DAY YOU HEAR ME RING:
TO GOD YOUR HALLELUIAS SING:
H.B. MA' M' 1744
Tenor9-2-13THOMAS PARKER, WILLIAM SHAW, C.WARDENS
H.BAGLEY MADE ME 1744

TO HIER GODS WORD I SUMMON ALL AND TO THE GRAVE THE DEAD DO CALL, IMPROUE THIS WARNING BEFORE GIVN: AND SURELY YOU MAY ATTAIN HEAVN

NB: the weight of each bell is show in cwt-qrt-lbs (hundredweight- quarters- pounds)

Two trebles were added in 1890, these having been cast by James Barwell.  It is also assumed that the wooden frame was modified at this time, to a rather unusual four on four arrangements, being previously three on three.  The details of these later bells are shown below

BellWeightInscription
13-2-17THOMAS BRADNEY SHAW-HELLIER GAVE ME
JAMES BARWELL MADE ME 1890
24-0-2THOMAS BRADNEY SHAW-HELLIER GAVE ME
JAMES BARWELL MADE ME 1890

In 1953 the bells were re-hung by Gillet and Johnston of Croydon. The frame was strengthened, but not otherwise altered, although some new fittings were supplied including ball bearings. At this time the ringing chamber was also moved up from ground level to it is present position in the tower. The bells were rededicated on 10th October 1953.  However, Gillet and Johnston went out of business shortly afterwards, and in later years it was generally considered that this latter work at St Benedict’s was “perhaps not one of their finest moments”.

In 1996 the bells fell temporarily silent, because the old wooden frame had become unsafe. The last official ringing was a quarter-peal on 8th August 1996, which was rung as a birthday tribute to the then tower captain, Arthur M. Elliott. The two trebles (which were regarded to be “a bit tinny”) were re-cast that year, their new details being shown below –

BellWeightInscription
13-1-18Taylor of Loughborough 1996
23-1-24Taylor of Loughborough 1996

All eight were then re-hung in a new 2-tier, three on five steel frame, by Hayward Mills Associates the work being completed in 1997.

The most recent alteration has been the replacement of the locally infamous vertical ladder to the ringing chamber, with a staircase. This was done in 1999, although part of the original ladder is still in use today and leads from the ringing chamber to the clock chamber, just belo the belfry.  The clock was installed for Queen Victoria’s jubilee and has full Westminster chimes.  These days it is driven by electric motors

The definition of a peal has changed considerably over the years and was one of the motivating factors in the formation of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers in 1891.[1] Currently, for a performance to be recognised as a peal by the Central Council it must consist of sufficient changes (at least 5040 changes on up to seven working bells or 5000 changes on higher numbers), meet a number of other criteria (collectively referred to as the decisions), and be published in The Ringing World.

On typical tower bells a peal takes around three hours to ring; the time depends on several factors including the number of changes and the weight of the bells, which affects the speed of ringing.

Ringing Times

Mondays (except Bank holidays)

Beginners are invited to join the team on Monday evenings at 19:30, followed by experienced ringers from about 20:00 until 21:30.

The bell ringing team also ring with the team members from All Saints Church in Sedgley, as both towers are struggling to attract sufficient ringers at present. On the second Monday of the month, the St Benedict’s team visits All Saints to practice and then on the fourth Monday of each month, All Saints come to St Benedict’s.  On the first, third & fifth Mondays of the month each team practices at their own towers.

Sundays

Ringers gather at St Benedicts’s on Sunday mornings at 10:00 to ring for the 10:30 service.

We also ring occasionally on weekday evenings if there are special services such as confirmations, and in the summer the church is very popular for weddings.

St Benedict’s band of ringers are a friendly bunch of people who are desperate for new ringers especially for service ringing.  It is a way of keeping fit physical and mentally alert.  It is also a very social activity with the added bonus of being able to learn a traditional “new” skill!

All comers of any standard are welcome any time.
For further information please contact –

Carol Porter 07891838709 or carolporteruk@yahoo.co.uk

Parish Office contact no. 01902 897700 or parishoffice@stbenedictbiscop.org.uk

or complete the Contact Us form.

If you would like to learn about the history of bell ringing visit www.bellringing.org,