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.

The bell ropesThe bells are rung to tell the hour and also from 9.15am to 9.30am every Sunday before Parish Communion. There is a pattern to this which has been followed at St James’s for at least 35 years: tunes for the first 10 minutes, then a single bell for two minutes to call the congregation to church, and finally rapid ringing for the remaining time (indicating 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 Carol Service, Crib Services and Christmas Midnight Mass. In addition, bells are rung at New Year. This also has its own pattern: slow, mournful ringing as the old year dies and single chimes to indicate the old year just before midnight (20 single chimes for 2020). After midnight has struck, there are single chimes to indicate the New Year (21 single chimes for 2021) followed by joyful ringing to welcome the New Year.

Every year in July we hold a St James’s Festival celebration and bell-ringers are present in the tower 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. The ringers also ring for special occasions: for example the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, royal weddings, the 50th, 60th and even 70th wedding anniversaries of members of our congregation, the centenary of the end of World War One, the anniversary of D-Day and sometimes at funerals to celebrate the life of the deceased.

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. Although the bells are rung by only one person at a time, there are usually two or three people '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.

Ringing is very enjoyable and anyone over about the age of 10 can learn. Training for new ringers is usually spread over three months before they join the rota. When Covid restrictions are eased, I will be happy to teach any new learners!

Find out more

The Clock & Bells (document)
Annual Parochial Church Meeting Reports (these documents contain the annual reports of the various church teams or groups associated with St James's Church. Scroll down the document of the year you are interested in to find the report you want) 


Susan Horner on 020 8979 9380

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