Bells are rung in a church either to signify the hour or the time for worshippers to go to church, perhaps to attend a wedding, funeral, or other service. The practice and hobby of bell-ringing is known as campanology. The origin of the word campanology is from the Latin word campana meaning bell and logia meaning to study. Although a few people still believe that our bells can be switched on to ring automatically, this is not true! Only the chimes every quarter operate mechanically, all other ringing has to be done by real people.

The bell ropesAt St James's the bells are rung from 9.15am to 9.30am every Sunday before Parish Communion or the All Age Service. There is a pattern to this which has been followed at St James’s for at least twenty years; tunes for the first ten minutes, then a single bell for three minutes to call the congregation to church, and finally rapid ringing for the last two minutes (to indicate that you should hurry?) If you have never noticed this, listen next Sunday.

Most people marrying at St James's request bells, which are rung as they leave the church after the ceremony. The bells are also rung for the crib services and Midnight Mass at Christmas, at New Year with slow, mournful ringing as the old year dies followed by joyful tunes after midnight to welcome the new year. The ringers are occasionally asked to ring on other occasions, for wedding anniversaries, special birthdays, or sometimes at funerals to celebrate the life of the deceased.

Bell-ringers are present in the tower during the St James’s Day celebration to demonstrate the bells and to explain their history and ringing patterns. Visitors, including children, are encouraged to have a go at ringing the bells.

St James's bells are housed in the bell tower. There are six bells at St James's, cast in 1893 and 1894. They are fixed so are not rung by swinging them on their axles. They are chimed manually by one ringer pulling sideways on ropes which hang vertically side by side. Four of the bells, which automatically chime the hours and the quarters, are also connected electrically to the clock. Find out about the bells.

Although the bells are rung by only one person at a time, there are usually two ringers 'on duty' on each occasion. Each rings for a couple of minutes and then passes to the other but the changeover should not be noticeable to those listening! Ringing is fun and new ringers are always welcome. Anyone from the age of about ten can learn to ring. It takes several hours to learn, but once trained, the only commitment is to ring before the 9.30am service about seven times a year.

We currently have 12 adult ringers and 5 young ringers. During 2018-19 the bells were rung for six weddings, every Sunday at 9.15am, for the Christmas Midnight Service and at New Year. We also joined bell-ringers throughout the country on 11 November, ringing to mark 100 years since the end of World War I. As usual, on Open Spire day during our St James's Day celebrations in July, members of the bell-ringing team were at both ringing and bells levels to talk about our bells and to help visitors to try their hand at ringing. 

Find out more

The clock & bells (document)


Susan Horner on 020 8979 9380


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