Bells have rung in St. George’s Church Pontesbury for over 350 years. The first record, in 1549, is of “three great bells and a Sanctus bell.”
Five of the present ring of six bells were cast in 1681 by Thomas Roberts, a Shrewsbury bell founder. They range in weight from the lightest, treble, at 6cwt, to the tenor, the largest and heaviest, at 13cwt, and are tuned to ring the notes C#, B, A#, G# and F#. These five bells, known to the ringers as numbers 2 to 6, are the only surviving ring of bells cast by Thomas Roberts.
The original tower housing the bells at St. George’s was situated on the north side of the church. When the tower collapsed in the 1820s, the bells were stored before being rehung in the present tower.
The treble, the smallest and lightest bell (5cwt, tuned to D#) was cast and hung in Pontesbury by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London, in 1869, thus completing the ring of six which we ring today.
The six bells are hanging in the belfry, behind the louvered windows at the top of the tower. Each hangs mouth downwards within a strong wooden frame, having a large wheel to the side, around which the bell rope is fixed. The bell ropes pass down the tower via holes in floor and ceiling, through the clock room to the ringing room below.
f Groove of wheel
h Ball of clapper
i Flight of clapper
l Timber of cage
n Lip of bell
Change ringing is a centuries old custom peculiar to English churches, which began in the City of London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It is a skill involving both mental and physical exercise, but above all teamwork.
The ringers’ first task is to “raise” the bells which are hanging with their mouths down, by pulling on the ropes to make them swing gradually higher and higher until they come to rest upside down in their frames. At the end of the ringing session the process is reversed, and it is this raising and lowering, which, with a band of inexperienced ringers, may sound cacophonous to those listening outside.
Once the bells are “up”, the simplest pattern (or tune) which can then be rung is rounds, where the bells are rung in sequence, 123456,123456,123456 etc.
To vary the pattern the bells can be called, one by one, each to follow another specific bell. For example, the call ‘3 to the treble’ would produce from rounds, the sequence 132456, as bell number 3 rings after bell number 1 instead of after number 2. This is known as ringing Call Changes.
With six bells there are 720 different sequences that can be rung. More advanced ringing, utilising as many of these sequences as possible, one after the other without a break, requires the ringers each to learn particular methods, and it is here that concentration and teamwork come to the fore, followed by enormous satisfaction at reaching rounds again, at the end of ringing the method!
If you live locally, no doubt you have heard the bells at St. George’s ringing out over the village from time to time.
They are rung on a Sunday to call people to worship; they ring in celebration for weddings, and half muffled in sorrow for funerals; they ring to mark important local and national events. We hope they will continue to do so, and thus play their part in the continuing history of Pontesbury.
We belong to the Hereford Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers, and there are at present nine of us who ring regularly in Pontesbury; we practice at 7:30 on most Thursday evenings. New members and visiting ringers are always welcome.
Please contact …
Sheila Bower, the Tower Captain, or Barbara Norsworthy, the Tower Secretary.
You can contact either of them in our Contacts Page, look for Bell Ringers on the drop down list.
External Links: Hereford Diocesan Guild of Bell Ringers