What is Bell Ringing?


For centuries church bells have sounded, calling people to worship, in celebration of special occasions, in remembrance and to mark special events. In the very early days, the bells were “chimed” to make a sound but the ringers had little control over the order in which the bells sounded and therefore the “music” they played.

The origins of what we call change ringing lie in the sixteenth century when church bells began to be hung with a full wheel enabling the bell to swing in a full circle and back again. This gave ringers control of their bell, which allowed sets of bells (rings) to be rung in a continuously changing pattern. Music is created by moving bells up and down the ringing order to a defined sequence known as a method.

Bellringing is a team activity that stimulates the brain and helps keep you fit… it also makes a glorious sound! Many consider ringing to be their contribution to church life, others do it for the pure pleasure it brings.


The bells are tuned to a normal (diatonic) scale and it is usual to start with ringing down the scale, a sequence which ringers call “rounds”. The order in which the bells sound is then altered to give different sequences called “rows” or “changes”.

Changes may be called out individually by the conductor, and this style is known as call-change ringing. Alternatively, the changes may be made to a pre-set pattern or “method”, and each ringer must learn that method in order to know when his or her particular bell must sound in each row. This style is known as method ringing.

Call changes and a few standard methods are rung in most towers and this makes it very easy for ringers to visit and ring with other bands. There are many more advanced methods which provide a continuing challenge as ringers gain proficiency over time.

Change ringing is also performed on handbells either to provide additional opportunities for practice or as an activity in its own right. It is, of course, popular with groups of ringers who live far from towers with change-ringing bells.

Please click here for a more detailed description with a North American flavour. This includes a sound clip and a short video showing ringers in action.

Bells have rung out for many years, calling people to prayer and worship for many religions; chiming out the time at clock towers the world over; as a signal on ships; calling attention for the Town Crier’s announcements, and so much more!

The bells in our care, tower bells, handbells and mobile belfries, are mostly rung:

  • for church services
  • for weddings
  • for special occasions
  • In remembrance
  • in competition
  • for ringers’ practice and pleasure
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