Horfield Tower Bell Ringers

Horfield Parish Church, Bristol.

Bell Anthology

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Probably the most detailed and comprehensive collection of its kind on the Internet ..
 

PAGE CONTENTS

 
Bell Facts - Did you know?
Bow Bells - and Dick Whittington
A Carol - Hark, Hark - the Christmas Bells
A Poem by Tennyson - Ring Out Wild Bells
A Traditional Welsh Song - The Bells of Aberdovey
Westminster Chimes and Big Ben
A Poem by John Betjeman - Bristol
A Victorian Hymn - Ring the Bells of Heaven
Jingle Bells - Australian Version!
A Symbol of Independence - The Liberty Bell
A Sousa March - The Liberty Bell
A Song - The Bells of Saint Mary's
A Poem from the Isle of Man - The Bells of Saint Mary's
English Proverbs about Bells
An American Easter Hymn - Soft the Bells are Ringing
Great Tom - a Famous Oxford Bell
A Catch (or Round) - Great Tom is Cast
A Poem by Longfellow - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
A Carol - Ding Dong! Merrily on High
Ten Commandments for the Bellringer
A Children's Nursery Rhyme - Oranges and Lemons
Another Rhyme - London Bells
A New Rhyme - The Bells of Bristol
A Soldiers' Song from WWI - The Bells of Hell
The Famous Shandon Bells
A Poem by Francis Mahony- The Bells of Shandon
An Irish Jig - Shandon Bells
A Poem by Houseman - Bredon Hill (from A Shropshire Lad)
A Carol - Ring, Ring the Bells
A Poem by Edgar Allan Poe - The Bells
Welsh Poem to Protest Song - The Bells of Rhymney
Pub Names Incorporating "Bell"
Quotations About Bells and Ringing
A Victorian Hymn - The Temperance Bells
An Old Devonshire Song - The Bellringing
The Titanic's Three Ship's Bells
A Comic Ballad - How Paddy Stole the Rope
An Old Cornish Song - The Egloshayle Ringers
A Poem by Rosalie Sorrels - The Bells of Ireland
A Gospel Hymn - Those Golden Bells
A Sonnet - The Passing Bell - by James Shirley
An Old Somerset Song - The Ringers of Chew
Ringer's Rules in a Poem - The Articles of Bellringing
 

Bell Facts - Did you know?
 
- that the UK's biggest ring of bells is in the church of  St Martin, Birmingham - with 16 bells. The pitch of the tenor is C, and it weighs 39cwt - 1qr - 19lbs - approaching two tons.
- that the UK's heaviest ring of bells is in the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool. The tenor weighs 82cwt - 0qrs -11lbs -  just over 4 tons.
- that the UK's biggest bell is Great Paul, in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. It weighs 334cwt - 2qrs -1 9lbs - nearly 16¾ tons. It is hung with a counterbalanced clapper for slow swinging only.
- that Bristol's (UK) biggest ring of bells is in the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Redcliffe with 12 bells (plus an extra treble and 6b). The pitch of the tenor is B, and it weighs 50cwt - 2qrs - 21lbs - just over 2½ tons.
- that Bristol's (UK) biggest bell is Great George, in the Wills Tower of Bristol University. It weighs 191cwt - 1qrs - 19lbs - over 9½ tons. It is hung for slow swinging, and is only rung on very special occasions.
- that the UK's oldest tower bell (circa 1100) is in the church of St. Botolph, Hardham, Sussex. It weighs 1 cwt, and is still in use. The UK's oldest dated bell is in the church of St. James, Lissett, near Bridlington, Humberside - it is inscribed MCCLIIII (1254).
- that Britain's highest un-spired parish church tower housing a ring of bells is St. Botolph's, Boston, Lincolnshire  The tower (with ring of 10 bells) is 272 ft high, and is known as the Boston Stump. Britain's highest spired parish church tower with a ring of bells is St. James, Louth - also in Lincolnshire. The tower houses a ring of 8, and the spire is 295 ft high. Coming a close second is St. Mary the Virgin, Redcliffe, Bristol,  with a ring of 12 bells in a tower with a 292 ft spire.
- that first ever peal of 5,040 changes was rung at the church of St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich in 1715.
- that the world record for change-ringing was set by ringers on eight bells at  the bell tower of Loughborough foundry on 27/28th July 1963. It took them 17 hours 58½ minutes to ring an extent of 40,320 unrepeated changes of Plain Bob Major. At the time of writing (2008), this record is yet to be broken.
- that bell metal is the hard alloy that is used for making bells. It is a form of bronze, usually approximately 3:1 ratio of copper : tin (78% copper, 22% tin). 
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Bow Bells - and Dick Whittington.
 
Bow Bells is the name given to a ring of twelve in the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, London. The church (and hence, the ring of bells) gets its name from the Norman bow-arches in the crypt.

If you read the inscriptions on the bells ...

1 D eclare His glory among the heathen His wonder among all people.
2 W ho so offereth praise glorifieth me.
3 H is name alone is excellent, His glory is above the earth and heaven.
4 I n his temple doth everyone speak of his glory.
5 T he glory of the lord shall endure for ever.
6 T hey shall sing in the ways of the lord for great is the glory of the Lord.
7 I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy majesty and of Thy wondrous works.
8 N ot unto us O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory.
9 G ive unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
10 T hy saints shall bless thee, they shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom and talk of thy power.
11 O Lord my God I will glorify thy name for evermore.
12 N ow lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

...then take the first letter of each inscription, it spells D Whittington!

Apart from being a fictional pantomime character, the real Richard (Dick) Whittington (originally from Pauntley in Gloucestershire) was Lord Mayor of London four times - (1397, 1398, 1406-7 and 1419-20).

In the legend, Dick Whittington is a penniless boy who heard that the streets of London were "paved with gold", and decides to go there (with his cat) to make his fortune. This turns out not to be true, so he decides to leave. He then hears the sound of Bow Bells, which seem to be telling him to: 

"Turn-ag-ain-Dick-Whit-ting-ton ... twice-Lord-Mayor-of-Lon-don-town."

He follows the advice of Bow Bells, turns back and subsequently becomes Lord Mayor - and also very rich.

Whittington couldn't possibly have heard the Bow Bells that we can hear today, as the medieval church (together with its tower and bells) was totally destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666. The present church was built by Sir Christopher Wren, between 1670 and 1683. A peal of eight bells for the tower was cast in 1677, the tenor being recast in 1738. The remaining seven bells were recast in 1762, when two extra bells were added. A further two bells were added in 1881, bringing the total to twelve. The clock bells of St. Mary-le-Bow - now known as Whittington Chimes -  were installed by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford in 1905.

By 1926 the bells had become un-ringable, and were subsequently recast and restored in 1933. Sadly, after only eight years of use, they were destroyed in an air raid in 1941. The existing ring of twelve was cast (using metal salvaged from the old bells) by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1956. The new bells were rung for the first time in 1961.

It is said that to be a true London Cockney, you must have been born "within the sound of Bow Bells. So presumably, no cockneys were born between 1941 and 1961...

 
Click Dick Whittington logo to hear the Whittington Chimes.
  
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A Carol - Hark, Hark - the Christmas Bells
 
This carol was sung by the children of Ashton Gate Primary School, Bristol, during the early 1950s. Its origin is not known - neither is it known whether there are any more verses. Any additional information about it would be gratefully received.
 
 
Please click bells to hear the tune.
 
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A Poem - Ring Out Wild Bells - by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
 
1 Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
5 Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
2 Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
6 Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
3 Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
7 Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
4 Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
8 Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 
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A Traditional Welsh Song - The Bells of Aberdovey
 
 

The Bells of Aberdovey

Clychau Aberdyfi

2. Bold with love, I'm back once more,
Just to camp against your door. 
It's one, two, three, four, five and six, 
Sing the Bells of Aberdovey. 
One, two, three, four, five and six,
It's one, two, three, four, five and six, 
Sing the bells of Aberdovey. 
Here's and end to all faint hearts, 
Till truth it is you're pleading. 
If you just meet me half way, 
It will be all I'm needing. 
If your love is half as true,
As this love, I have for you, 
It's one, two, three, four, five and six, 
From the bells of Aberdovey.
2. Pan ddôf adref, dros y môr,
Cariad gura, wrth dy ddôr.
Mal un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech, 
Meddai clychau Aberdyfi. 
Un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech, 
Mal un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech, 
Meddai clychau Aberdyfi. 
Paid â'i wneud yn galon wan, 
Pan ddaw o dan dy faner, 
Os bydd gennyt air i'w ddweud,
Bydd gwneud yn well o'r hanner.
Os wyt ti'n fy ngharu i, 
Fel rwyf fi'n, dy garu di, 
Mal un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech, 
Meddai clychau Aberdyfi.
 
Click harp to hear the tune  Clic y telyn clyed y cywair
 
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Westminster Chimes and Big Ben
 

Also (and originally) known as Cambridge Chimes, as the first ever installation of this system was  in the Church of St. Mary the Great (the University and Parish church of Cambridge).

Although the Victoria clock tower of the Palace of Westminster is an internationally known symbol of London, many people think that it is called "Big Ben", although this is of course the unofficial name of the hour bell, not the tower.

The Big Ben hour bell and chime bells are the most frequently broadcast bells in the world, and most people believe that they know these chimes intimately. However, if you ask someone to hum the four notes of the first quarter, they will probably hum the first four notes of the fourth quarter instead. This is because it is assumed (including by the designers of electronic doorbells!), that these chimes are cumulative - but they are not.

There are four chime bells - G#, F#, E and B, with a keynote of E.  Five different sequences are used by the chime mechanism:

Sequence 1   G# - F# - E - B
Sequence 2 E - G# - F# - B
Sequence 3 E - F# - G# - E
Sequence 4 G# - E - F# - B
Sequence 5 B - F# - G# - E
 
Quarter 1

Sequence 1

Click speaker icon to hear quarter 1
  
Quarter 2

Sequence 2

Sequence 3

Click speaker icon to hear quarter 2

 

Quarter 3

Sequence 4

Sequence 5

Sequence 1

Click speaker icon to hear quarter 3

  

Quarter 4

Sequence 2

Sequence 3

Sequence 4

Sequence 5
Click speaker icon to hear quarter 4
The air of the fourth quarter-chime is said to be based on a phrase from Handel's aria: I know that my Redeemer Liveth, in the Messiah (#45).

There are words directly associated with the fourth quarter-chime. These are inscribed on a wooden plaque on the wall by the mechanism in  the tower clock room:

Sequence 2

Sequence 3

Sequence 4

Sequence 5
 

"All through this hour,

Lord, be my guide;

That by thy power, No foot shall slide."
 
When the first quarter is chimed, you should be able to tell which quarter it is after hearing only two notes, as it's the only quarter beginning with sequence 1, and that is the only sequence that begins with G# and F#.

Similarly, when the third quarter is chimed, you should be able to tell which quarter it is  after hearing only two notes, as it's the only quarter beginning with sequence 4, and that is the only sequence that begins with G# and E.

However, the second and fourth quarters both begin with sequence 2, then continue with sequence 3. So only after hearing at least eight notes will you able to tell whether it's the second or fourth quarter that is being chimed. Although Westminster chimes are famous, and  have been installed in many clock mechanisms throughout the world, it could be said that their chiming method is flawed in this respect.

The Great Bell (the hour bell, known unofficially as Big Ben) strikes the note of A.

If you have a musical ear, you may notice that Big Ben (and its chime bells) are all about a half-tone sharp. This is because they were cast before international pitch was standardised at A=440Hz in 1939.

To hear the actual sound of all four quarters, followed by Big Ben striking twelve, click the clock tower picture below:

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A Poem - Bristol - by John Betjeman
 
A copy of this poem hangs on the wall of the ringing chamber in the Horfield tower.
 
1. Green upon the flooded Avon shore the after-storm-wet-sky,
Quick the struggling withy branches let the leaves of autumn fly.
And a star shone over Bristol, wonderfully far and high.
2. Ringers in an oil-lit belfry- Bitton? Kelston? Who shall say?
Smoothly practising a plain course, caverned out the dying day,
As their melancholy music flooded up and ebbed away.
3. Then all Somerset was round me, and I saw the clippers ride,
High above the moonlit houses, triple masted on the tide,
By the tall embattled church towers of the Bristol waterside.
4. And an undersong to branches dripping into pools and wells,
Out of multitudes of elm trees over leagues of hills and dells,
Was the mathematic pattern of a plain course on the bells.
 

John Betjeman

 
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A Victorian Hymn - Ring the Bells of Heaven
 
Here is a Victorian hymn. The words are by the Reverend W. O. Cushing, and the music was composed by G. F. Root.
 
 
1. Ring the bells of Heaven! there is joy today!
For the wand'rer now is reconciled;
Yes, a soul is rescued from his sinful way,
And is born anew a ransomed child.
2. Ring the bells of Heaven! spread the feast today!
Angels, swell the glad triumphant strain!
Tell the joyful tidings! bear it far away!
For a precious soul is born again.
 
Click the angels and bells ...   ... to hear Ring the Bells of Heaven
 
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Jingle Bells - Australian Version!
 
Chorus Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer's day, Oh,
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut.
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.
1 Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute.
Kicking up the dust, esky in the boot;
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It's summer time, and I'm wear-ing, my singlet, shorts and thongs, Oh,
2 Engine's getting hot, we dodge the kangaroo,
Swaggie climbs aboard, he is welcome too;
All the family's here, sitting by the pool,
Christmas day, the Aussie way, nearby the barbecue, Oh,
3 Come the afternoon, Grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce, are swimming in their clothes;
Time has come to go, we take a family snap,
And pack the car, and all shoot through, before the washing up, Oh,
 
Ute = Utility vehicle (pickup truck).
Holden = Well-known make of ute.
Esky = Large insulated food/drink container for picnics, barbecues, etc. 
Kelpie = Australian sheepdog, originally bred from Scottish border collie. 
Thongs = Cheap rubber backless sandals.
Swaggie = Swagman (tramp, hobo)
Shoot through = Go!
 
Click kangaroo to play Jingle Bells on a didgeridoo!
 
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A Symbol of Independence - The Liberty Bell
 
This historic bell was originally cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges. The bell was delivered in 1752, but it when first hung on 10th March 1753, it was cracked by a stroke of the clapper. Soon after, the bell was recast by Philadelphia founders John Pass and John Stow, using an additional amount of copper. The recast bell was raised on 29th March. However, the tonal quality was so poor that they had to break it up and recast it a second time. The bell was raised again in June of that year. However, the tone of the bell was still deemed to be unsatisfactory, and In November the Whitechapel foundry was asked to provide a replacement.

However, when the new bell arrived from England, it was agreed that it sounded no better than the Pass and Stow bell. So what later became known as the "Liberty Bell" remained where it was in the steeple, and the new Whitechapel bell was installed as a clock hour-bell in the cupola of the State House roof.

On 8th July 1776, the Liberty Bell was rung from the tower of Independence Hall to summon the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first proclamation of the Declaration of Independence, which was read by by Colonel John Nixon. The bell was temporarily taken down and hidden under the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, when the British occupied Philadelphia in October 1777. It was returned to Philadelphia in 1778.

In the period 1790 and 1800 Philadelphia  was the capital of the Union, and the bell was used to summon the legislature into session. It was also rung on other important occasions, such Independence Day and George Washington's birthday. In the early 19th century a crack began to develop in the bell, and in 1846 it became unringable. A slot was later cut along the crack and two rivets inserted to control the vibration, which partially restored the bell's tonal quality.

The Liberty Bell Center (6th and Market Streets, Philadelphia), was set up in October 2003, and the bell and its headstock were installed there, mounted on a trunnion. Every year on 4th July (Independence Day), children (descended from the signatories of the declaration) symbolically tap the Liberty Bell thirteen times (thirteen being the original number of states in the Union). The weight of the bell (original) is 2080 lbs, and the strike note is Eb. The inscriptions on the bell (the first one being from the Bible) read:

 
Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in Philada.
Pass and Stow
Philada
MDCCLIII
 

The Liberty Bell

 
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A Sousa March - The Liberty Bell
 
The Liberty Bell march was written by John Philip Sousa in 1893, one of some 136 marches that he composed. As well as being a composer, he was the conductor of the band of the US Marine Corps, and later conducted a civilian band that travelled the world giving performances. He also gave his name to the sousaphone.

A version of this march became very well-known in the UK during the 1960s, when it was used as the theme tune for the BBCs comedy series: Monty Python's Flying Circus.

 
Please click the sousaphone ... ... to play the Liberty Bell march.
 
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A Song - The Bells of Saint Mary's
 
This song was published in 1917. The lyrics are by Douglas Furber, and the music was written by Emmett Adams.
 
 
2. The bells of St. Mary's at sweet even time,
Shall call me, beloved, to come to your side
And out in the valley in sound of the sea
I know you'll be waiting, yes, waiting for me.
3. At the porch of St. Mary's, I'll wait there for you,
In your soft wedding dress with its ribbons of blue,
In the church of St. Mary's, sweet voices shall sing,
For you and me, dearest, the wedding bells ring.
 
Click cover page ... ... to hear the tune.
 
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A Poem from the Isle of Man - The Bells of Saint Mary's 
 
This poem was written in the early 20th century by Thomas Flaxney Stowell of Castletown, on the Isle of Man. He  presented it to the subscribers of the Castletown Temperance Society.
 
1. 'Twas the sweet day of rest on the first day of May,
To the Church of St. Mary's I wended my way:
I breathed as I passed up the sacred aisle -
"As sound as the bells keep my heart from guile."
2. Let the lowly, the meek, and the humble be here,
To join with their heart in the orthodox prayer:
For whether verbal or written, to doubt there's no need
The bells of St. Mary's respect no man's creed.
3. And when to their places of worship they go, -
Other sects of religion, - it matters not who, -
Her tones, like the God whom they reverence, are free;
The bells of St. Mary's are music to me.
4. Not an oar nor a sail for pleasure that day
Will bend on the waters of Castletown Bay,
The Commandment stands good: "My Sabbaths revere,
While the bells of St. Mary's respond through the air.
5. The Curlew, so fearful, so timid, so shy,
Comes nearer the beach with his whistling cry,
By the hand of the sportsman it's sure not to fall;
The bells of St. Mary's sound safety to all.
6. O ye youth of our town, your Sabbaths preserve,
For go where you will, such you never will have,
If you travel abroad the whole universe round,
When the bells of St. Mary's are far out of sound:
7. When oceans and mountains divide you from home,
And the Logical Sceptic may tempt you to roam,
He never can shew better than where you were rear'd -
In the town where the bells of St. Mary's are heard.
8. Chime on, ye sweet bells, till the Morning appears
When we shall account for our many past years,
And if circumstances take any part in that Day,
May the thought of your peals never lead to dismay.
 
Quocunque Jeceris Stabit (meaning:
"Whichever way you throw, it will stand")

"With one leg I spurn Ireland,
With the second I kick Scotland,
And with the third I kneel to England."
The Three Legs of Mann
 
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English Proverbs about Bells
 
A cracked bell can never sound well.
A fool's bell is soon rung.
As the fool thinks, so the bell clinks.
As sound as a bell.
Bells call others, but themselves enter not into the church.
Fear not the loss of the bell more than the loss of the steeple.
God comes to see without a bell.
Hang not all your bells upon one horse.
In all this triumph there is a whip and a bell.
It is a silly flock where the ewe bears the bell.
They agree like bells; they want nothing but hanging.
To the counsel of fools, a wooden bell.
When thou dost hear a toll or knell, think upon thy passing bell.
 
Ring out the old ... ... ring in the new.
 
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An American Easter Hymn - Soft the Bells are Ringing
 
Here is an American Easter hymn. The words are by Eliza M. Sherman - the music was composed by George C. Stebbins.
 
 
Click the portrait ...   ...to hear the tune.
George C. Stebbins
 
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Great Tom - a Famous Oxford Bell 
 
Great Tom is the bell that hangs in Tom Tower (designed by Christopher Wren) in Christ Church, University of Oxford, England. It is the loudest bell in Oxford, and measures seven feet one inch in diameter and five feet nine inches in height, and weighs six and a quarter tons.

Originally called "Mary", Great Tom used to hang in Osney Abbey, until in 1545 it was moved to St Frideswide's church, after which at some point it was renamed "Tom". It had caused problems since its first casting, wearing out its clapper, and was recast in 1612, 1626, and 1654, but without solving the problem. In 1678–1679, Richard Keene of Woodstock tried three times to recast it, in the process increasing its weight from two to over six tons, but it wasn't until a final recasting in 1680 – by Christopher Hodson, a bell-founder from London – that success was achieved, and the resulting bell, Great Tom, was hung in the newly completed Tom Tower. It was re-hung in May 1953.

There is an inscription on the bell in Latin, which translated reads:

"Great Thomas the door closer of Oxford renovated April 8, 1680 in the reign of Charles II. Deacon John, the Bishop of Oxford and sub Deacon give thanks to the knowledge of Henry Smith and the care and workmanship of Christopher Hodson".

Great Tom is still chimed 101 times every night, which signifies the 100 original scholars of the college plus one (added in 1663). It is rung at 21:05, which corresponds to what used to be "Oxford time" (when different parts of the country set their clocks according to their distance from the Greenwich meridian), and was at one time the signal for all the Oxford colleges to lock their gates. The bell is only rung by swinging on very special occasions.
 

The Tom Tower

 
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A Catch (or Round) - Great Tom is Cast 
 
This catch (or round) in three parts refers to the Great Tom bell at Christ Church, Oxford. It was written in the early 17th Century, and was first published by Thomas Playford in 1667.

The score below (arranged on the treble, tenor and bass clefs) is set out for three voices - each singing one octave apart. The sound clips at the end of the score employ a "midi" reed organ voice. The first clip plays the tune once - in unison. The second clip plays the tune twice through - as a round.

 
 
Click the blue choir icon to hear once - in unison.
Click the red choir icon to hear twice - as a round.
 
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A Poem - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 
1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
2. I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
3. And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
4. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."
5. Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 
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A Carol - Ding Dong! Merrily on High

 
The tune used for this carol was originally a secular French dance tune, and it first appeared as Bransle l'Officiale in the Orchésographie - a dance book written by Jehan Tabourot (1519-1593). The words were composed by George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934), and it  first appeared as a carol in his book: The Cambridge Carol-Book: Being Fifty-two Songs for Christmas, Easter, And Other Seasons, published in 1924. Woodward was interested in church bell ringing, so this was presumably his inspiration for writing it.

This carol is notable for its very long melismatic sequence : i.e. in that the first syllable of the word Gloria (in the chorus) has to be sung across thirty-one notes (and again in the repeat).

 
 
2. E'en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And "Io, io, io!"
By priest and people sungen.
3. Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers;
May you beautifully rime
Your evetime song, ye singers.
 
Click the angel... ... to hear the tune!
 
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Ten Commandments for the Bellringer

 
The following (of unknown authorship and origin) is from the papers of the late Don Helliwell of Horfield Tower. Note that the practice evening (Monday at Horfield) is given as being on Wednesday. So either the practice evening was formerly on that day, or this document originated from a different tower. Multiple pinholes in the original suggest the latter.
 
 
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A Children's Nursery Rhyme - Oranges and Lemons

 
Oranges and Lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.
 
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
 
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
 
When I grow rich!
Say the bells of Shoreditch
  
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
 
I do not know!
Says the great bell of Bow.
 
Here comes a candle,
To light you to bed ..
 
.. And here comes a chopper,
To chop off your head!

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Another Rhyme - London Bells
 

This rhyme is much less well-known, but possibly pre-dates Oranges and Lemons. The word gay is of course used in its original sense - meaning bright and merry.

 
Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London town.
Oranges and Lemons, say the Bells of St. Clements,
Bullseyes and Targets, say the Bells of St. Margaret's.
Brickbats and Tiles, say the Bells of St. Giles,
Halfpence and Farthings, say the Bells of St. Martin's
Pancakes and Fritters,  say the Bells of St. Peter's,
Two Sticks and an Apple, say the Bells of Whitechapel,
Maids in white aprons, say the Bells at St. Katherine's,
Pokers and Tongs, say the Bells of St. John's,
Kettles and Pans, say the Bells of St. Anne's,
Old Father Baldpate, say the slow Bells of Aldgate,
You owe me Ten Shillings, say the Bells of St. Helen's,
When will you Pay me? say the Bells of Old Bailey,
When I grow Rich, say the Bells of Shoreditch.
Pray when will that be? say the Bells of Stepney,
I do not know, says the Great Bell of Bow.
Gay go up and gay go down,
To ring the bells of London town.
  
What seems to be just a nonsense rhyme may in fact have some original reference to reality.

St. Clement's church is close to wharves where citrus fruit used to be unloaded - which could explain the "Oranges and Lemons". Near to St Margaret's there were once fields where archery practice was carried out, thus: "Bullseyes and Targets". There were builders near to St. Giles's church, giving rise to "Brickbats and Tiles."

The church of St. Martins is situated in what was once the moneylenders quarter, from which the "Halfpence and Farthings" is possibly derived. Near St. Peter's is in Cornhill there were once many bakers' shops - presumably selling "Pancakes and Fritters", and "Maids in White Aprons" were supposedly the 17th century costumes of the women working in Leadenhall market near St. Katherines's. St. John's chapel is in the Tower of London, where prisoners were tortured - hence,  "Pokers and Tongs"

"Kettles and Pans" probably refers to the wares of the coppersmiths who carried out their trade in the locality of St. Anne's church. "Old Father Baldpate" apparently refers the tonsure of St Botolph, to whom a church in Aldgate is dedicated. St. Helen's was frequented my rich merchants, and the district in which it is situated was also home to moneylenders - hence the: "You Owe me Tens Shillings" in the rhyme.

"When will you Pay me?" is thought to a reference to those incarcerated in the debtors' prison, near to the Old Bailey, the bells being those of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, which is nearby. In the 18th century, the church of St. Leonards, Shoreditch set up a workhouse for the poor, so "When I Grow Rich" might well have expressed the wishful thinking of its inhabitants ...

The spire of  St. Mary-le-Bow
 
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A New Rhyme - The Bells of Bristol - by Roger Revell

 

"If London has a rhyme about its bells, why not Bristol?", I thought. But as no such rhyme existed, I had to write one. It incorporates all 23 towers of the Bristol branch of the Gloucester and Gloucester Diocesan Assocation of Church Bell Ringers, plus the Wills Tower of Bristol University that houses Great George. The tune is of course the same as "Oranges and Lemons". Some knowledge of the geography of Bristol and the Bristolian dialect is needed to appreciate it! - RR.

 

1. We’m ve-ry-small, but well-pealed,
Say the five bells, of Hor-field;
In Zum-mer-zet, we be,
Say the six bells of, Abbot’s-Leigh.
2. We’re haugh-ty, and quite stiff,
Say the great bells, of Redcliffe;
Cit-y’s scored, own goal!
Say the eight bells of Kno-wle.
3. We’re near the, Gorge outcrop,
Say the bells of, Stoke Bishop;
We’ve a steep hill, to cycle!
Says the bells of Saint Michael.
4. Our lett-uc-es, are ice-bergs!
Say the bells of, Saint Werburgh’s;
We make no com-pla-ints!
Say the bells of All Sa-ints.
5. Ro-vers, they hav-en’t won!
Say the six bells, of Stap-le-ton;
Don’t tell I, tell ‘ee!
Say the eight bells of Henb’ry.
6. Thee gets, up our no-se!
Say the bells of, Saint Ambrose;
Stop call-in’, us names!
Say the ten bells, of Saint Ja-mes.
7. This beer, makes I puke,
Say the six bells, of Saint Luke;
Thees give I, the gyp,
Say the bells of, Saint Phil-ip.
8. We’ve a spend-thrift City Council!
Say the bells of, Cath-ed-ral;
The’ve left us, in the lurch,
Say the ten bells, of Christ Church.
9. Corp’ration’s lost mon-ey!
Cry the six bells of West-b’ry;
Sell, Ash-ton Pa-rk!
Say the bells of Saint Ma-rk.
10. Bankrupt, by Christmas!
Say the bells of, Saint Thomas;
Their money, is all gone,
Say the bells of Saint Jo-hn.
11. They can’t break even!
Say the bells of Saint Stephen;
They won’t pay all!
Say the bells of Saint Paul.
12. Here’s dosh that, they owe you,
Say the bells of Saint Matthew;
That tenor’s, a forge!
Says the Girt Bell, of George!
Yer comes a bus, and we’ve waited two hours,
And yer comes the end of, th-e Bris-tol bell towers!
 
© 2008 Roger L. Revell (Public Domain).
 
 
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A Soldiers' Song from WWI - The Bells of Hell

 

 
Click "Hell's Bells" to hear the tune!
 
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The Famous Shandon Bells

 

These bells hang in the church of St. Anne Shandon, City of Cork, Eire (Republic of Ireland). There are eight bells, the tenor weighing 26 cwt. Interestingly, they were not cast in Ireland, but in England - by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester, in 1750. They first rang in 1752, and were recast in 1865.

By the early 20th century there were increasing concerns about vibration (it was said that when the bells rung, the patients in the nearby North Infirmary Charitable Hospital shook in their beds), so in 1906 they were re-hung in a fixed position for chiming using Ellacombe hammers, operated from the first floor.

The profound and somewhat somber inscription on the tenor bell reads:

"I to the Church the living call , and to the grave do summon all."

The McOsterich family were involved with the design and erection of the tower. By tradition, if a member of that family marries, anywhere in the world, the bells are rung in their honour.

The tower clock is known colloquially as the "Four Faced Liar" because the minute hands on the east and west faces are always several minutes ahead of the minute hands on the north and south elevations - except on the hour, when they are the same!

Reflecting the location of the church on the bank of the River Lee, the weather-vane is in the form of a salmon.

 

 
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A Poem - The Bells of  Shandon - by Francis Sylvester Mahony (Father Prout)
 
1. With deep affection and recollection
I often think of the Shandon bells, 
Whose sounds so wild would, in days of childhood,
Fling round my cradle their magic spells.
On this I ponder, where’er I wander,
And thus grow fonder, sweet Cork, of thee,
With thy bells of Shandon,
That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters of the river Lee.
2. I have heard bells chiming full many a clime in,
Tolling sublime in cathedral shrine;
While at a glib rate brass tongues would vibrate,
But all their music spoke nought to thine;
For memory, dwelling on each proud swelling
Of the belfry knelling its bold notes free,
Made the bells of Shandon
Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters of the River Lee.
3. I have heard bells tolling “old Adrian’s mole” in,
Their thunder rolling from the Vatican,
With cymbals glorious, swinging uproarious
In the gorgeous turrets of Notre Dame;
But thy sounds were sweeter than the dome of Peter
Flings o’er the Tiber, pealing solemnly.
Oh! the bells of Shandon
Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters of River Lee.
4. There’s a bell in Moscow, while on tower and Kiosk, O!
In St. Sophia the Turkman gets,
And loud in the air calls men to prayer
From the tapering summit of tall minarets.
Such empty phantom I freely grant ’em,
But there’s an anthem more dear to me:
’Tis the bells of Shandon,
That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters of the River Lee.
 

St. Anne Shandon, and the River Lee

 
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An Irish Jig - Shandon Bells
 
As well as a poem, these famous bells also have a jig named after them. The tune is contained in many traditional collections, most notably in O'Neill's 1001 Gems - the Dance Music of Ireland - where it is the first tune (of 1001) noted in that book.

 

 
Click the Celtic script ... ... to play Shandon Bells.
 
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A Poem - Bredon Hill (from A Shropshire Lad)  - by A.E. Housman.

 

1 In summertime on Bredon 
The bells they sound so clear; 
Round both the shires the ring them 
In steeples far and near, 
A happy noise to hear.
4 And I would turn and answer 
Among the springing thyme, 
"Oh, peal upon our wedding, 
And we will hear the chime, 
And come to church in time." 
2 Here of a Sunday morning 
My love and I would lie, 
And see the coloured counties, 
And hear the larks so high 
About us in the sky. 
5 But when the snows at Christmas 
On Bredon top were strown, 
My love rose up so early 
And stole out unbeknown 
And went to church alone. 
3 The bells would ring to call her 
In valleys miles away: 
"Come all to church, good people; 
Good people, come and pray." 
But here my love would stay. 
6 They tolled the one bell only, 
Groom there was none to see, 
The mourners followed after, 
And so to church went she, 
And would not wait for me. 
7 The bells they sound on Bredon 
And still the steeples hum. 
"Come all to church, good people,"-- 
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb; 
I hear you, I will come.

Evesham and 

Bredon Hill

 
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A Carol - Ring, Ring the Bells
 

Here is a carol from Boston, Massachusetts. It was published in 1916 by the Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins in his book: Carols Old and Carols New: For Use At Christmas and Other Seasons of the Christian Year. (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916). 

Click Christmas bells to hear the music
 
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A Poem - The Bells - by Edgar Allan Poe
 
1 Hear the sledges with the bells - 
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells - 
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
2 Hear the mellow wedding bells - 
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! -how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells - 
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
3 Hear the loud alarum bells - 
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now -now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells - 
Of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells - 
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!
4 Hear the tolling of the bells - 
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people -ah, the people - 
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone - 
They are neither man nor woman - 
They are neither brute nor human - 
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells,
Of the bells - 
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells - 
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells - 
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells - 
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

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Welsh Poem to Protest Song - The Bells of Rhymney
 
This song began as  poem, published in 1938 by the Welsh poet, Idris Davies, in his first book: Gwalia Deserta. His inspiration was the hardship suffered by the valleys communities resulting from the defeat of the miners by the government in the 1926 General Strike.

Nearly twenty years later, American protest singer Pete Seeger set music to it, and his performance of the song was first recorded live at at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1957.

The song was later covered by by many others, including the Byrds, Jimmy Page, Judy Collins, Dick Gaughan, Cher, Robyn Hitchcock, the Oyster Band , the Alarm, and the Mitchell Trio. It was also covered by Robin Williamson on an album of readings, and performed live by Bob Dylan and John Denver.

 
 
2. They will plunder willy-nilly,
Cry the bells of Caerphilly.
They have fangs, they have teeth,
Say the loud bells of Neath.
Even God is uneasy,
Say the moist bells of Swansea,
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney.
3. Put the vandals in court!
Say the bells of Newport.
All would be well if, if, if ...
Cry the green bells of Cardiff.
Why so worried, sisters, why?
Sang the silver bells of Wye.
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney.
 
Click pit-head gear  to hear the tune.
 
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Pub Names Incorporating "Bell"
 

At the time of writing (February, 2008), there are 412 pubs in Britain with the word Bell in the name. It is interesting to note that pubs called the Bell are more prevalent in towns and cities, whereas pubs called the Ring o' Bells (often near churches) are more common in country districts. Here is an analysis of the names:

 
Bell 5
The Bell 72
Bell Hotel 10
The Bell Hotel 1
Bell Inn 11
The Bell Inn 73
Bell Tavern 1

Total, "Bell"

173
Blue Bell 8
The Blue Bell 16
The Blue Bell Hotel 1
Blue Bell Inn 4
The Blue Bell Inn 9
The Blue Bell Cider House 1

Total, "Blue Bell"

39
Five Bells 4
The Five Bells 27
The Five Bells Hotel 1
The Five Bells Inn 1

Total, "Five Bells"

33
Six Bells 3
The Six Bells 28
The Six Bells Hotel 1

Total, "Six Bells"

32
Ring o' Bells 4
The Ring o' Bells 26
Ring o' Bells Inn 1
The Ring of Bells Inn 1

Total, "Ring of Bells"

32
The Eight Belles 1
Eight Bells 1
The Eight Bells 15
The Eight Bells Inn 1

Total, "Eight Bell(e)s"

18
Old Bell 2
The Old Bell 12
The Old Bell Tavern 1
Ye Old Bell 1
Ye Old Bell Inn 1

Total, "Old Bell"

17
Railway Bell 1
The Railway Bell 6

"Total, Railway Bell"

7
The Bell and Crown 4
The Bell and Crown Inn 1

Total, "Bell and Crown"

5
The Ten Bells

4

Total, "Ten Bells"

4
Twelve Bells 1
The Twelve Bells 2

Total, "Twelve Bells"

3
The Bells

2

Total, "The Bells"

2
Cock and Bell 1
The Cock and Bell 1

Total, "Cock and Bell"

2
 
Other 45
 

GRAND TOTAL

412
 
"Other" comprises one of each of the following:

Bell and Barge, Bell and Barrel, Bell and Bear Inn, Bell and Bottle, Bell and Buck, Bell and Compass, Bell and Hare, Bell and Jorrocks, Bell and Shears, Bell at Mill Hill, Bell at Sapperton, Bell Dean, Bell in Driffield, Bell Rock Tavern, Bell Wether, Bells of Ouseley, Bells of Peover, Bow Bells, Buck and Bell, Cap and Bells, Cuckoo and Bell, Dog and Bell, Dumb Bell, Fenn Bull Inn, Gilpin's Bell, Golden Bell, Kings Head and Bell, Liberty Belle, Lower Bell, Lydden Bell, Marlingford Bell, Middle Bell, Moon and Bell, New Bell Inn, Old Bell and Crown, Old Five Bells, One Bell, Pig and Bell, Ship and Bell, Temple Belle, Three Bells, Tuesday Bell, Ye Old Bell and Steelyard, Ye Old Blue Bell and Ye Olde Six Bells.

 

"Bell" Pub Names - Charted

 
Here is a list of "bell" pubs in and around Bristol:

 

Bristol
 
The Bell 18 Hillgrove Street, Stokes Croft, Bristol, Bristol, BS2 8JT
The Bell 7, Prewett Street,  Bristol, BS1 6PB
The Bell Bell Hill, Stapleton, Bristol, BS16 1BE 
The Bell Hotel 112, Bell Hill Road,  St. George, Bristol, BS5 7NF
The Bell Inn 21 Alfred Place, Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8HD
The Bell Inn 161 East Street, Bedminster, Bristol, Bristol, BS3 4EJ
 
Gloucestershire
 
Ring o' Bells Henfield Road, Coalpit Heath, Bristol,  BS36 2TG 
 
Somerset
The Bell Inn Kent Road, Congresbury,  Somerset, BS49 5BE
Ring o' Bells Upper Road, Hinton Blewett,  Somerset, BS39 5AN
Ring o' Bells 4 St Marys Grove, Nailsea,  Somerset, BS48 4NQ
Ring o' Bells Main Street, Compton Martin,  Somerset, BS40 6JE

 
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Quotations About Bells and Ringing
 
 
"And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas day, on Christmas day;
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas day, in the morning"
 
Anon
I Saw Three Ships.
   
"'Who'll toll the bell?'
'I, said the Bull,    
Because I can pull;
I'll toll the bell.'"
 
Anon 
Who Killed Cock Robin?
 
"The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, 'Good folk, mere noise repels -
But give me your sun from yonder skies!'’"
 
Robert Browning
An Old Story.
 
"How soft the music of those village bells,
Falling at interval upon the ear
In cadence sweet; now dying all away,
Now pealing loud again, and louder still,
Clear and sonorous, as the gale comes on!
With easy force it opens all the cells
Where Memory slept."
 
William Cowper
 The Winter Walk at Noon.
 
"The wedding bells were ringing 
On a moonlit winter's night;
The church was decorated,
All within was gay and bright.
A woman with a baby came,
And saw the lights aglow;
She thought of how those same bells chimed,
For her - three years ago."
 
Gussie L. Davis
The Fatal Wedding.
 
"Therefore, never send to know for  
whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."
 
John Donne
No Man is an Island.
 
"The log was burning brightly,
'Twas a night that should banish all sin,
For the bells were ringing the old year out,
And the New Year in."
 
Will Godwin
The Miner's Dream of Home.
 
"The curfew tolls the knell of passing day."
 
Thomas Gray
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
 
"In wedlock bands, all ye who join with hands 
Your hearts unite;
So shall our tuneful tongues combine 
 To laud the nuptial rite."
 
Rev. Charles Harris 
Former rector of St Thomas's, Stourbridge.
(Inscription on the tenor bell)
 
"For though the day be never so long,
At last the bells ringeth to evensonge."
 
Stephen Hawes
Passtyme of Pleasure.
 
"When o'er the street the morning peal is flung
From yon tall belfry with the brazen tongue,
Its wide vibrations, wafted by the gale,
To each far listener tell a different tale."
 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
The Bells.
 
"Dear bells! how sweet the sound of village bells
When on the undulating air they swim!"
 
Thomas Hood
Ode to Rae Wilson
 
"The old mayor climbed the belfry tower,
The ringers ran by two, by three;
'Pull, if ye never pulled before;
Good ringers, pull your best,' quoth he.
'Play uppe, play uppe, O Boston bells!
Ply all your changes, all your swells,
Play uppe The Brides of Enderby.'"
 
Jean Ingelow
High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire.
 
"The cheerful Sabbath bells, wherever heard,
Strike pleasant on the sense, most like the voice
Of one, who from the far-off hills proclaims
Tidings of good to Zion."
 
Charles Lamb
The Sabbath Bells.
 
"For bells are the voice of the church;
They have tones that touch and search
The hearts of young and old."
 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Bells of San Blas.
 
"Seize the loud, vociferous fells, and
Clashing, clanging to the pavement
Hurl them from their windy tower!"
 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus the Golden Legend, Prologue.
 
"The bells themselves are the best of preachers,
Their brazen lips are learned teachers,
From their pulpits of stone, in the upper air,
Sounding aloft, without crack or flaw,
Shriller than trumpets under the Law,
Now a sermon and now a prayer."
 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus the Golden Legend, Part III.
 
"Bell, thou soundest merrily,
When the bridal party
To the church doth hie!
Bell, thou soundest solemnly,
When, on Sabbath morning,
Fields deserted lie!"
 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Hyperion.
 
"They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton toll'd the bell."
 
Thomas Moore 
Faithless Sally Brown.
 
"Those evening bells! those evening bells!
How many a tale their music tells!"
 
Thomas Moore 
Those Evening Bells.
 
"The art of change ringing is peculiar  
to the English, and, like most English 
peculiarities, unintelligible to the rest 
of the world."
 
Dorothy L. Sayers
The Nine Tailors.
 
"Dundee he is mounted,
He rides up the street;
The bells are rung backward,
The drums they are beat;
But the Provost, douce man,
Said: 'Just e'en let him be;
The Gude Town is weel quit,
Of that Deil of Dundee.'"
 
Sir Walter Scott
Bonny Dundee (Part II).
 
"Yet the first bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but a losing office, and his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,
Remember'd knolling a departed friend."
 
William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part II
 
"The wind was east, the moon was high.
Of a frosty blue, was the spangled sky;
And the bells were ringing, and dawn was nigh,
And the day was Christmas morning."
 
John Pagen White
Christmas Day in the Morning.
 
The Bard himself.
 
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A Victorian Hymn - The Temperance Bells
 
Increased industrialisation and urbanisation in the mid 1830s were accompanied by poverty, unemployment and crime. Alcohol was held to be the cause of many of the related social problems. Societies were formed to promote abstinence, and so began the Temperance Movement. Many hymns were written to promote the cause - this one is by William Stevenson. The hymns were often sung by bands of ladies outside public houses, with the aim of  encouraging those within to give up alcoholic drink. Ornate documents called pledges were produced for temperance converts to sign - hence the expression: signing the pledge (meaning to agree to abstain from alcohol). An example of such a pledge is reproduced below this hymn.
 
 
2. Long, the tyrant foe hath taken,
Cherish'd loved ones for his own;
Now, his cruel power is shaken,
Soon, will fall his tott'ring throne.
3. Brothers, come! The hosts are forming,
Let us, join without delay;
Bright, the hills with tints of morning,
Dawning, of a better day.
 
Click the
temperance
pledge ...
... to hear the
Temperance
Bells.
 
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An Old Devonshire Song - The Bellringing
 

Here is an interesting old song from Devon, about a 19th century bell ringing contest.

It was collected by the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, (the vicar of St. Peter's, Lewtrenchard, Devon) from William George Kerswell (of Two Bridges, Dartmoor) and also from James Down, a blacksmith, (of nearby Broadwoodwidger) and published in his book: "Songs of the West" in 1889.

The "jubilee day" mentioned in the first verse is possibly the 50th anniversary of the coronation of King George III, which was celebrated in October 1809. Ashwater, Northlew and Broadwoodwidger  (Broadwood, in the song) are all in Devon, but Callington is just over the border in Cornwall.

 

Ashwater - St. Peter ad Vincula

C2. ‘Twas misunderstood, for the men of Broadwood,
Gave a blow on the tenor, should never have been;
But the men of Northlew, rang so steady and true,
A difficult matter, to beat them, I wean.
V2. Those of Broadwood, being haughty, they said to our party:
"We'll ring you a challenge, again in a round;
“We'll give you a chance, in St Stephen-by-Launceston,
“A prize to the winner, a note of five pound."
Northlew - St. Thomas of Canterbury.

Northlew - St. Thomas of Canterbury

C3. 'Twas in Callington town, the bells they did sound,
They rang for a belt, and a hat laced with gold;
But the men of Northlew, rang so steady and true,
That there never were better, in Devon, I hold.
V3. So the match it went on, at good Callington,
And the bells they rang out, o'er the valley below;
The old and the young people, the hale and the feeble,
They came out to hear, the sweet bell music flow.
Broadwoodwidger - St. Nicholas.

Broadwoodwidger - St. Nicholas

C3. 'Twas in Callington town, the bells they did sound,
They rang for a belt, and a hat laced with gold;
But the men of Northlew, rang so steady and true,
That there never were better, in Devon, I hold.
V4. Those of Broadwood, once more, were obliged to give o'er,
They were beaten completely, again in a round;
But the men of Northlew, rang so steady and true,
No better than they, in the West can be found.
Callington - St. Mary.

Callington - St. Mary

C4. 'Twas in Ashwater town, then in Callington town,
They rang for a belt, and a hat laced with gold;
But the men of Northlew, rang so steady and true,
That there never were better, in Devon, I hold.

      

 
Click the "certificate" ... ... to hear the tune
 
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The Titanic's Three Ship's Bells
 

Type

Alloy

Diameter

Location

Ship's bell Brass 1' 5" Lookout cage (foremast)
Ship's bell Brass 1' 11" Forecastle (mounted on the foremast)
Ship's bell Brass 9' 2" Captain's bridge.
 
 
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A Comic Ballad - How Paddy Stole the Rope
 
Somewhat surprisingly, the script of the original version of this ballad is available for viewing online in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
 
 
2. So off they went with theft intent, the place they wanted finding,
They broke into a country church, which nobody was minding.
They scraped together all they could, and then prepared to slope,
When Paddy cries out, 'Hold on, Mick, what shall we do for rope?
We've got no bag to hold the swag, and e'er we get outside,
With something stout and strong, my lad, the bundle must be tied."
Just then he spies the old church bell, and quick as an antelope,
He scrambled up the belfry high, to try and steal a rope.
3. Now when Paddy up the belfry got, 'Ah-hah, bedad, but stop;
To get a piece that's long enough, I must climb up to the top."
So, like a sailor, up he went, and near the top, says he,
"I think the piece that's underneath, quite long enough will be."
So, holding by one arm and leg, he drew his clasp knife out,
And right above his big fat head, he cut the rope so stout.
He quite forgot it held him up, and, by the Holy Pope,
Down to the bottom of the church, fell Paddy and the rope.
4. 'Come out of that," says Mick to Pat, as he on the floor lay groaning,
'If that's the way you cut a rope, no wonder now your moaning.
I'll show you how to cut a rope, so just lend me the knife."
"Be very careful," cries out Pat, "or else you'll lose your life."
He clambered up the other rope, and, like an artful thief,
Instead of cutting it above, he cut it underneath.
The piece fell down and left poor Mick, alone up there to cope;
Says he, "Bad luck unto the day, when we came stealing rope.'
5. Now with Paddy groaning on the floor, and Mick hung up on high,
Says Pat, 'Come down." 'I can't," cried Mick, "for if I do, I die."
The noise soon brought the beadle round, the sexton and police,
And although they set poor Micky free, they gave them no release.
They marched them to the county jail, where their conduct now they rue,
And if they'd got no work before, they've plenty now to do;
And for their ingenuity, they now have larger scope
Than when they broke into a church, to try and steal a rope.
 
Click Paddy... to hear tune!
 
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An Old Cornish Song - The Egloshayle Ringers
 
Here is an old song from Cornwall. As with the Devonshire song, the Bellringing (above) it tells of a ringing contest between several towers. In this instance though, the five towers in the song are all in Cornwall, and the ringers of Egloshayle are the undisputed victors.

Egloshayle is a village near Wadebridge in North Cornwall - eglos being the Cornish word for church, and hayle being the Cornish for estuary. The ringers named in the song are all buried in the churchyard there - St. Petrock - and their names can been seen on the headstones.

Notwithstanding the wording of the song, this church has not five, but eight bells. Of the other towers mentioned, Lanlivery and St. Mabyn also both have eight bells, and St. Tudy and St. Kew both have rings of six.

It is possible that extra bells were installed in Egloshayle (and perhaps in the other towers) after the song was written. Another possibility is that the contest was carried out using just the five "back bells" in each tower - but this doesn't accord with words of verse two, where Craddock is said to be ringing the treble bell.

There are several variants of this song - one version of which is displayed in the Egloshayle bell tower. There are also two different tunes. The one reproduced below uses a modal scale, so is probably of an earlier date than the alternate tune (which is in a major key).

 
 
2. There was Craddock, the cordwainer,
He rang the treble bell;
John Ellery was, the second man,
And few could him excel:
The third was Pollard, the carpenter,
And the fourth was Thomas Cleave;
And Goodfellow, the tenor man,
That rang him round so brave.
3. Now Craddock was, the treble man,
He stepped 'long with his toe;
And casting of, his eyes around,
Commanded them where to go:
They pulled away, with courage bold,
Which did their hearts revive;
Sweet music then, was quickly heard,
With: "one, two, three, four, five."
4. They went out to, Lanlivery,
They brought away the prize;
They came back, to St. Tudy,
And done the same likewise:
Lanlivery men, St. Mabyn men,
St. Tudy and St. Kew;
But those five lads of Egloshayle,
Did all the rest outdo.
5. This little corps, they played so sure,
No changes did they fear;
No man did ever, miss his turn,
'Twas joy to see and hear:
And people all, for miles around,
Did tell o'er hill and dale;
The fame of those, five ringers bold,
That lived in Egloshayle.
 
Click the Cornish flag ... ... to hear the melody
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A Poem - The Bells of Ireland - by Rosalie Sorrels
 
1. These are the bells of Ireland,
Which in my garden grow;
My great grand-mother brought
Those seeds - from Ireland, long ago.
2. Their music, it is sweet and sad,
Like orphan angels sing;
If you listen in your heart,
You'll hear those bells of Ireland ring.
 
 
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A Gospel Hymn - Those Golden Bells
 
This gospel hymn was written circa 1887 by Dion de Marbelle, and it has since been recorded by many American artistes.
 
 
2. We shall know no sin or sorrow,
In that heaven of tomorrow,
When our hearts shall sail, beyond the silvery sea.
We shall only know the blessing,
Of our Father's sweet caressing,
When they ring the golden bells, for you and me.
3. When our days shall know their number,
When in death we sweetly slumber,
When the King commands the spirit, to be free.
Nevermore, with anguish laden,
We shall reach that lovely Eden,
When they ring the golden bells, for you and me.
 
Please click the golden bells ... ... to hear the two-part harmony.
 
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A Sonnet - The Passing Bell - by James Shirley
 
Hark, how chimes the passing bell!
There's no music to a knell;
All the other sounds we hear,
Flatter, and but cheat our ear.
This doth put us still in mind
That our flesh must be resigned,
And, a general silence made,
The world be muffled in a shade.
[Orpheus' lute, as poets tell,
was but moral of this bell,
And the captive soul was she,
Which they called Eurydice,
Rescued by our holy groan,
A loud echo to this tone.]
 
The poet likens the tolling of a funeral knell to the playing of Orpheus - the Greek god of beautiful and bittersweet music. There is some poetic licence here, as Orpheus played not the lute, but the lyre. Orpheus was the son of the silver-tongued Calliope, and when he played his lyre even the rocks and trees would stop what they were doing and listen. When his wife Eurydice was poisoned by a serpent, he descended to the underworld and sang such heartfelt ballads that even Hades shed a tear.
 
 
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An Old Somerset Song - The Ringers of Chew
 
This song was written to commemorate the installation of a sconce in the tower of the church of Saint Andrews, Chew Magna, Somerset in 1804. The tune used (which probably pre-dates the words) is the same as that used for a much more well-known traditional folk song called Twankydillo.

Cecil Sharp collected an almost identical version of the song from Mrs. Lavinia Rendall at Chew Magna on 10 January 1907. In the last line of verse one, Mrs. Rendall sang “reign” instead of “rise”, and her second line in verse three was: "This noble fine sconce was brought into Chew tower".

 
 
2. If a gent-le-man ca-lls, this fine sconce for to see,
There’s no harm in treating, such ringers as we;
We can ring bobs and singles, extremes or true blue,
There’s no ringers, can compare with, the ringers of Chew.
3. In the year of one thousand, eight hundred and fower,
This noble fine sconce, it was raised in the tower;
Which made all the ringers, rejoice and to sing:
“Here’s a health to, John Norcotte”, and “God save the King”.
 
The Horfield bells were of course founded by Abraham Bilbie of Chew Stoke - a village neigbouring Chew Magna.
Click the village sign... ... to hear two-part harmony
 
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Ringer's Rules in a Poem - The Articles of Bellringing
 
The following verses (believed to date from 1791) were displayed in the ringing chamber of St. Martin's Church, North Perrott Somerset. The word tester (occurring in verse eight) is a term for a sixpence (2½p).
 
1. He that in ringing takes delight,
And to this place draws near;
These articles - set in his sight,
Must keep, if he rings here.
2. The first he must observe with care,
Who comes within the door,
Must, if he chance to curse or swear,
Pay sixpence to the poor.
3. And whoso'er a noise does make,
Or idle story tells;
Must sixpence to the ringers take,
For mending of the bells.
4. Young men that come to see and try,
And do not ringing use;
Must sixpence give the Company,
And that shall them excuse.
5. He that his hat on head does keep,
Within this sacred place;
Must pay his sixpence ere he sleep,
Or turn out with disgrace.
6. If anyone with spurs t'is heels,
Rings here at any time;
He must for breaking articles,
Pay sixpence for his crime.
7. If any overthrow a bell,
As may by chance he may;
Because he minds not ringing well,
He must his sixpence pay.
8. If a noble-minded man,
Comes here to ring a bell;
A tester is the sexton's fee,
Who keeps the church so well.
9. Whoever breaks an article,
Or duty does neglect;
Must never meddle with a bell,
The rope will him correct.
 
 
 
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