Bells


There are worlds within worlds that echo across church life. Bells and their ringers are one such orbit that until I started to seriously visit churches I was ignorant about. It wasn't that I didn't know that bells existed. It is just that the process of bell ringing was dealt with by other people. My involvement was mostly to stay away from the ropes, not touch things that didn't concern me and nod approvingly while appreciating the sound of a well rung peal.

 
Yet who wouldn't love to spend at least half an hour up in the Gods, looking at the enormously heavy bells and their ropes and frames?

After all these aren't things you can get to see every day. I reckon a significant proportion of people will be within earshot of a bell but few have actually seen them? Suffice to say I felt honoured, if a little scared, climbing up a set of *long* ladders to reach the bells at Wormingford.

See those ladders to the left, at the back... ladders like that!

I am actually a tiny bit scared of heights, and I have to steel myself and remember not to look down. This looking down advice is especially true when half way up a swaying ladder following a Tower Captain nearly twice my age who is shinning up and down easily and putting me to shame.  If you look down you freeze (or get the urge to throw yourself off), neither is a good option.

Once up there it is worth every second of the climb though.
















Some towers have proper bell chambers, like this one at  Sible. It is homely and filled with pieces of mismatched furniture, and all things necessary to bell ringers. Then you wonder, as you've just squeezed your way up a narrow winding stone staircase... how the hell did they get any of this stuff up here? It must have been a nightmare to push it up the steep spiral steps in the half dark.




 
 
 
St Gregory Sudbury &  St Mary Belchamp Walter
Of course, there is also the graffiti. Those who ring bells love to scratch graffiti. Their names, their dates, sometimes the names of the bells that they ring, sometimes the change order. This piece, from Belchamp Walter makes me want to scuttle off to see if I can find something about the maker. Who why and what was going on here?

 
It isn't all memorialising either. There are more organic designs to be found; beautiful plants growing from the walls, birds singing and strutting across the stone. The top design is executed in low relief, the piece to the right covered in limewash but still flowering through. You wouldn't think there was so much life in a bell tower.


 
St Gregory Sudbury
But back to the bellringers....now then Issac Brazier (maker) who were you? What did you make ? Why were you in St Gregory's church tower in the 18th c ? What relationship did you have to the bells?