Bells are long-lived. Three of the bells were being made in the year 1633. Fascinating, when you reflect that it was the year that Galileo was on trial for saying the earth moved round the sun and when Mrs Pepys gave birth to Samuel!
From church to church, bells can sound very different. The eight bells of St Mary’s, in the key of E, are noted for their tuneful and pleasant tone. The Tenor weighs 14cwt (711kg).
In case you are unfamiliar with church bells: each bell hangs with its clapper hanging loose. In this position it is said to be ‘Down’. Before the bells can be rung, ringers separately, from down below in the ringing chamber, have to pull on their rope and make the bell swing gradually higher and higher until it is pointing upwards, where it rests. When all the bells have been ‘rung up’ like this, the ringers are ready to begin.
Until 1936 the St Mary’s ring was of six bells and they were hung on wooden frames. The six bells were restored and rehung; two new treble bells were added in memory of Blanche Ellen Taylor, the wife of Frank Henning William Taylor, MA, who was vicar of Bitton at that time.
The bells were rehung on metal frames and ball-bearing mountings and the original six were brought in tune with the two new ones. They were dedicated on 5th December, 1936.
In this chart it will be noticed that the overall weight of the present back bells was reduced quite considerably, particularly the tenor, which was reduced by 3.5 cwt. The bells were made smaller by a method known as ‘chip tuning’; this is the skilful removal of large chips of metal from the outer rim of the bell until its note and tone are correct. It is also believed that some form of ‘skimming’ of the bells was done.