Every day you may hear St Mary’s bells chime each quarter of an hour, but when you hear them pealing out on a Sunday morning do you ever give them a second thought?
For the clock chimes, little hammers hit the outside of the bell, and everything is controlled automatically, but on Sundays and at weddings the sound is made by the clapper hitting the inside of the bell as it swings though 360o.
Each bellringer controls the swing of his (or her) bell via a long rope passing over a wheel attached to the bell down through the tower to the ground floor. The art is to sense what is happening to the bell by the “feel” of the rope.
The art of bellringing dates from the early 17th century. The “music” we ring is called a “method” and over the years many methods have been composed, varying from the very simple to the very complicated. These have to be memorised before they can be rung.
There are 8 bells in our tower, 7 being recast in 1837 and the tenor bell in 1892. They vary in weight from about 5cwt to 24cwt, so there may be 4 tons of metal swinging about 70 feet above our heads. These are certainly not the church’s original bells – there is a record of bells being rehung in 1670 suggesting that the art of bellringing has been practiced in Westerham for 340 years.
To hear the bells of St Mary’s Westerham click here.
To read about tuning of church bells click here
Practice nights are Tuesday in Westerham (7:45pm), Thursday in Sundridge (8pm) and Friday in Brasted (8pm). Visitors are always very welcome. More details…