Bells & Bellringers
The Bells of Christ Church St Laurence are rung every Sunday morning, on Feast Days and to announce other liturgical occasions. In addition to calling people to worship, the sound of our bells has accompanied civic occasions. In 1901 the bells were rung to mark the Federation of Australia and the death of Queen Victoria.
The original six bells were cast by John Taylor & Sons of Loughborough, England, in 1852. They arrived in Sydney the following year aboard the Hamlet, and were hung in the belltower in 1855, first chimed on Christmas Day that year, and first rung full circle on 1 January 1856. Following retuning by Whitechapel Foundry in London, the bells were rehung by the ringers with new fittings in a steel frame. On Trinity Sunday, 1983, the bells were blessed and named by the Rt Rev’d David Hand, former Archbishop of New Guinea. Four new bells from Whitechapel were added in 1984, bringing the full complement in our belltower to ten.
- Whitechapel, 1984 “Warwick”; pitch B (treble); weight 162kg
- Whitechapel, 1984 “Robert”; pitch A; weight 163kg
- Whitechapel, 1984 “John”; pitch G; weight 181kg
- Whitechapel, 1984 “Neil”; pitch F#; weight 200kg
- Taylor, 1852 “Mary”; pitch E; weight 228kg
- Taylor, 1852 “Esther”; pitch D; weight 267kg
- Taylor, 1852 “Barbara”; pitch C; weight 315kg
- Taylor, 1852 “Patrick”; pitch B; weight 316kg
- Taylor, 1852 “Basil”; pitch A; weight 369kg
- Taylor, 1852 “Laurence”; pitch G; weight 550kg
Some of the bells bear the names of religious figures: No. 5, Mary (the Mother of God); No. 7, Barbara, Patron Saint of Bellringers. Bell No. 3 is named for Fr John Hope, rector of this church from 1926-64.
The 1852 tenor (No. 10) is named for Laurence, Deacon of Rome, who is the Patron Saint of this Church. It bears the inscription:
Tho’ various stops the solemn organ grace
the sprightly treble, and majestic bass
Yet say what bass, what treble can excel,
the cheerful matin, or the funeral knell?
Learning to Ring
For more information on becoming a Bellringer, contact the Tower Captain. New recruits are always welcome, as are visiting ringers. Ringers come from all walks of life and most age groups, and need not be church-goers. Bellringing is a group activity that combines physical coordination and mental alertness to produce the unique sounds of change ringing. This combination of mental and physical skills, teamwork, and the rich sounds that are produced, ensures a lifetime’s enjoyment. Many people ring as a contribution to church and community life; others enjoy learning a traditional skill which has been passed down for centuries. Ringers everywhere enjoy the social aspects of their hobby, meeting regularly to ring bells for various occasions. Visiting other towers is encouraged, and a good way to meet people when travelling. Bellringing does not require great physical strength, nor do you need any knowledge of music or mathematics. It’s all about rhythm, memory and concentration. Although a bell rests with its mouth facing downwards, the English tradition of bellringing requires that the bell be raised to the “up” position. The bells swing through a full circle each time they ring. You will need some intensive practice at the outset – perhaps a dozen one-to-one lessons to develop the technique to ring your bell “to the balance”. With that skill acquired, you will quickly become a useful member of the band, attending our weekly practice (Tuesdays 6-8pm) and ringing on Sunday mornings and for special occasions. Change ringing comes next, with its intriguing mix of quick-thinking, listening, vision (“ropesight”) and fine-tuning of the physical skills. How rapidly and how far you advance depends mainly on opportunity and enthusiasm, but the feeling of achievement and fun starts from the beginning.
Many people find ringing quite addictive and it is common to find older ringers who started ringing when they were in their teens and have never grown tired of it.
The Bellringers of Christ Church St Laurence are members of the Australian & New Zealand Association of Bellringers. New ringers are welcomed.