Restoration of bells - Total cost: £10,179.60

Notwithstanding COVID, our fundraising proved to be successful and the bells were finally removed in April 2021 to be restored and tuned. The bell-cote was made good, too, and it received back its original colours. The completely restored bells were rehung in June 2021 and they were automised (they are "tolled" by a programmed mechanism). Thank you for your generous donations! The greater bell was restored in memory of ... and first tolled in memory of ... The smaller bell was restored in memory of all unborn children and was first tolled in memory of ...
The greater bell was restored in memory of ... and first tolled in memory of ...
The smaller bell was restored in memory of all unborn children and was first tolled in memory of ...

Church bells

Church bells are the loudest and most public, outward-facing voice of the Christian Church. When people hear them, they know something is happening. Bells are among the oldest musical instruments in the world and churches have been ringing bells since the beginning of 5th century.

"The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence"

Bells summon us to worship, highlight a particular stage during a church service, and remind us of God’s presence in our daily lives. They ring for celebration and mourning, for weddings and funerals and coronations. They joyfully welcome holy seasons such as Christmas or Easter. The church bells every Sunday morning remind the people who aren’t there that the church is. Church bells also ring to announce deaths to solicit prayers for the deceased’s soul.

Their "baptism"

Bells are solemnly blessed before they are used: they are washed with holy water, anointed with blessed oils, surrounded and filled by clouds of incense, prayed over by a Bishop, and dedicated to a Saint.

"Let the people’s faith and piety wax stronger whenever they hear its melodious peals. At its sound let all evil spirits be driven afar; let thunder and lightning, hail and storm be banished; let the power of your hand put down the evil powers of the air, causing them to tremble at the sound of this bell, and to flee at the sight of the holy cross engraved thereon … when the peal of this bell resounds in the clouds may a legion of angels stand watch over the assembly of your Church, the first-fruits of the faithful, and afford your ever-abiding protection to them in body and spirit."
Blessing and consecration of bells

Our bells here at St. Paul's

The small number, modest size, and poor quality of our original bells are signs of the deprivation of Westham and the Parish in the 19th century.The long and slow history of the original building works and later extensions shows that finances have always been tight... While the original bells, cast in 1900, were of poor quality, the recent tuning improved their sound considerably.

The larger bell is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and the smaller to the Apostle St. Paul, Patron of our church and Parish.

Concerns about the state of bells and bellcote have been raised continuously from the 1990s. Since they are located at the highest point of the church with no direct access, it was impossible to have a precise image of their state without excessive (and expensive!) scaffolding. Corrosion and structural damage caused by weather and time forced us to stop ringing our bells a few years ago.

When are the bells used?

At St. Paul’s bells are rung during the week daily at 9am, at 12noon, and at 5.30pm (3 strikes thrice with a pause between them and final 9 strikes) to call us to pray the Angelus.

On Sundays they are rung at 9.15am and 4pm (5pm BST) for the Angelus, and 10 minutes before the solemn Parish Mass (for 5 minutes), and during Elevation (when consecrated bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ on the Altar).

In addition they are rung on Maundy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil for the Gloria, during the Corpus Christi procession, and for All Souls.

On request, they may be rung at funerals to remember a loved one and to call all to pray for the repose of their soul.

Silence that talks

The purposeful silencing of church bells also has spiritual significance. Here at St. Paul’s, in accordance with centuries-long tradition, the only time during the year when church bells are purposely not rung is between Maundy Thursday and the Easter Vigil when the Church mourns over the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. The bells will, however, make again a merry noise at the Easter Vigil to celebrate Christ’s glorious Resurrection.

Their secular use

By the early Middle Ages, when church bells became more common everywhere in Europe, their importance grew as church bells became used as a form of mass communication. They were used in times of local or national disaster.

Church bells have always been used for other secular purposes as well such as commemorating important civic events, signalling market days and, particularly in walled or gated cities, sounding the curfew.

Even their silence had importance. During the Second World War Winston Churchill invoked the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914 to ban the country’s church bells from ringing – unless to announce invasion by enemy troops.

England - a land of bells

The composer George Frideric Handel, on one of his first visits to London, called England “the ringing isle” because he had heard church bells ringing wherever he went. They are part of the soundscape of the country and we would all be the poorer if they disappeared.

Copyright © 2020 St Paul's PCC

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