Repair, tuning, automation, and rehanging of bells

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... The bells were cast in 1900 by the London-based ... and their bells from that period are famously of poor quality.

The larger bell weights .... and the smaller one .... They are affectionately dedicated, the former to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and the latter 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.

Fundraising to restore our bells was interrupted by COVID. As important works to the roof must be done, we have decided to proceed with the restoration of the bells anyway to avoid the expenses of a second scaffolding. We hope to raise what is still missing through grants and donations.

When (will) we use them

At St. Paul’s bells are rung during the week daily at 9am and 5.30pm (3 strikes thrice with a pause between them and final 9 strikes) to call us to pray the Angelus, and 15 minutes before the daily Mass (see Service times).

On Sundays they are rung at 9am and 4pm (5pm BST) for the Angelus, 15 minutes before the solemn Parish Mass, and during Elevation.

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. This 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.

"Raffle" - win the chance to be the first one to toll the restored bells!

Hand on heart! - Who did not want to toll church bells at least once in their life? According to this medieval manuscript it is literally everyone's dream... Well, this is your chance to do it and all you have to do is to enter our Raffle.

Our bells will be removed in April and rehung - restored, tuned, and automised! - on the 20th of May.

On this occasion we will draw a lucky winner who can "toll" the new bells for the first time after so many years of silence.

(Do not worry, the bells will be automised, so you only have to push a button.)

You can buy as many tickets as you want for £5 each. Should you wish to, you can toll the bells in memory of a loved one.

You are free to pass prize on to a person of your choice. If you cannot be present in person, just tell us in whose memory you want the bells being rung.

If you are happy to consent, we will publish this on our website and Noticeboard:

"The restored bells were rung for the first time on [date] by [] in memory of []."

To enter the drawing, please, contact us.

30%

Total cost of works: £10,179.60

Funds raised so far: £3,050

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.

Please, if you can, help us with your donation to save the bells of St. Paul's. To donate, visit our "You can help!" page or simply contact us. Thank you!

Grants and major donations

£50

(Click on the logo to visit their website.)

Copyright © 2020 St Paul's PCC

Search