History and Architecture: Bells and Bell Ringing


Photograph of one of the bells showing the stay.To prepare the bell to be rung, called ringing it up, the bell ringer will keep on swinging the bell until eventually it is totally upside down.

The wooden bar, sticking out from the top of the headstock is called a stay. It acts as a support, allowing the bell to rest in the upside down position ready to be rung.

Once a bell has been 'rung up' it is mouth up.

The next time the the rope is pulled, the bell will fall and swing through a full 360 degrees and then swing back to balance on the stay.

As the bell rises, the clapper hits the bell edge and thus a single note rings out.


Photograph of the bells.








On the right we can see one of Christ Church's bells in its bell pit and the mechanisms for ringing the bell.

The red metal bar attached to the top of the bell is known as the headstock. This is attached to a large wooden wheel and secured to metal side beams via special bearings which allow the bell to swing freely within the pit.

The rope that can be seen tied to the top of the middle strut of the wheel is the top of the bell rope. It feeds through a small hole in the wooden wheel and runs down the groove carved into it. It then goes through a pulley box and eventually down to the room beneath the Bell Tower. The position of the bell rope on the wheel means that, by alternatively pulling on the rope and then letting it run freely, the ringer can start the bell swinging.


Ringing the bell.

The picture on the left shows Pat ringing one of the bells at the end of the Sunday service.

Pat and the other bell ringers at Christ Church make bell ringing look such an easy process that the warning notices pinned to the room beneath the bell tower may seem slightly absurd.

Danger! What could be dangerous about bell ringing !!!

It is only when a beginner has their first lesson and pulls a bell for the first time that they discover that bell ringing can indeed be hazardous and that it is far from easy. Indeed many people who try bell ringing find their first attempts quite frightening! Bell ringing can, however, be exhilarating and fun once you have mastered the basics.

Balancing and rhythm is the key to bell ringing.

If the ringer stops the bell too far below the balance point, the bell will not rise sufficiently on the other side.

If the bell is pulled too hard, in order to get it mouth upwards again, the bell might swing over the balance point, and the bell will bounce off the stay and come down too soon. Bashing the stay is a very bad thing to do as it can result in the stay breaking off. Broken stays have resulted in some very nasty accidents such as broken fingers or worse.


If a stay breaks, the best thing a bell ringer can do is let go, for once there is nothing to stop the bell, its momentum will keep it revolving. Quite rapidly the the bell rope will be wrapped up and and any hapless bell ringer still attached to it would find themselves yanked up to the ceiling!

Having read this page, you may be interested in experiencing the thrilling and exciting art of bell ringing. And don't worry about the dangers. An experienced ringer always stands with a learner ready to take over if necessary.

Bell ringing practice usually takes place at Christ Church on Thursday at 7.30pm. To get involved and join in contact John Hulbert - bellringers@christchurchparbold.co.uk.

To find out more about the fascinating art of bell ringing click one of the underlined links below.


An introduction to Bell ringing

Bells and Bell ringing - The Central Council Of Church bell Ringers

The Art of Bell ringing - Information from the BBC

Animated Diagrams of Bells being rung - An American site but very interesting.

Learning about ringing from All Saints Wokingham

How Bells make their sounds.(Detailed investigation of church bells with sound clips.)

Library of Sound Recordings.(Sound clips and videos.)

For those living in other areas of Lancashire who are interested in becoming bell ringers, visit the website for the Lancashire Association of Change Ringers - Lancashire Association of Change Ringers and find out when different churches hold practice bell ringing sessions.

To view more photographs and information about Christ Church's bells and learn about bell ringing click the next page button.

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