Change ringing, the traditional English method of sounding bells swinging full circle, evolved during the 17th century. The basis of the art is that having started from ’rounds’ (ringing down the scale), each bell follows a pre-determined path amongst the others, so that the bells ring in a different order each time until they return again to rounds. Fully developed, this becomes an intricate and exacting science which today is keenly pursued by over forty thousand men and women of all ages. They form a well organised and important part of the Church and social life of England and indeed many other countries where campanology has taken root.
The bells and ringers of St Mary-le-Tower are amongst the best known in Britain. There were five bells and a Sanctus in 1553 of which Miles Graye I of Colchester recast the Treble in 1607 and the Tenor in 1610. In 1671 John Darbie of Ipswich recast the 2nd and 4th and added a Treble to make a ring of six. By the addition of two trebles by Christopher Hodson in 1688 this ring became the second octave in Suffolk (Horham in 1672, and Framlingham and Bungay in 1718). The first full peal recorded on the bells is Grandsire Triples on 12th December 1735.
Two more Trebles to make ten were cast by Taylor in 1844/5. Then with the great Victorian rebuilding of 1865, the opportunity was taken to provide Suffolk with its only ring of twelve, for in the following year a new Treble and Tenor were added. In 1976, a full scale restoration took place with the recasting of eight of the bells by Taylor of Loughborough, including a fine new Tenor of 35cwt. in the key of Dflat, retuning the remainder and rehanging with all new fittings.
A sharp 2nd was added in 1980.
The Millennium Work
In 1999 following the generous bequest by Dr Ronald Jones the 5th was recast, and the 8th retuned. Bells 9, 10 & 11 were replaced with bells cast to a heavier weight. The old 9th is going to Australia to form the Tenor of a ring of 8 in the key of F#. The old 10th is hung in the Tower as the ‘passing’ bell and the old 11th is also hung in the Tower as the Sanctus bell.
|2' 1"||Treble||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||4-0-0||G#|
|2' 2"||2#||John Taylor, Loughborough||1980||4-2-15||G|
|2' 2.5"||2||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||4-2-10||F#|
|2' 3.5"||3||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||4-3-1||F|
|2' 5.5"||4||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||5-2-26||D#|
|2' 7"||5||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||6-1-12||C#|
|2' 8"||6||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||6-2-26||C|
|3' 0"||7||Mears & Stainbank, London||1946||9-0-13||A#|
|3' 2.5"||8||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||10-1-14||G#|
|3' 6.5"||9||John Taylor, Loughborough||1999||14-2-12||F#|
|3' 9.5"||10||John Taylor, Loughborough||1999||18-2-0||F|
|4' 3"||11||John Taylor, Loughborough||1999||25-1-21||D#|
|4' 9.5"||Tenor||John Taylor, Loughborough||1975||34-3-16||C#|
The peal is tuned to the key of C# (545 Hz)
There has been a ringing tradition here for over 300 years and certainly from 1880-1939 the St Mary-le-Tower society was the leading twelve-bell Company in the land. Over 400 peals have been rung here, many of them for notable occasions.
The present Master of the Ringers is David Potts. He succeeded Richard Munnings, Owen Claxton (1991- 2007), Simon Rudd (1989-91) & George Pipe (1963-1989). George Pipe’s Great Great Great Uncle James Pipe rang a peal here in 1817.
The Steeple Keeper is Owen Claxton and the Tower Secretary is Stephen Cheek.