|Bells and Bell Ringing at St. Mary The Virgin,
|The Bells of St. Mary the Virgin, Ecclesfield
Bells have rung out from this church tower for over 400 years. It was one of the first churches
in the Sheffield and Rotherham area to have a ring of bells.
The earliest reference made to bells at Ecclesfield is in 1527, when a payment of fourteen
pence was made to James Fordsame "for making of iiij bell collers." At the same time, three
pence was paid to Robert Dawyre for mending a bell wheel, and a further eight pence for a
"day wark and for tymbyr to ye bells."
St. Mary's has a ring of ten bells in the key of E. The bells were cast at different
times over a period of five centuries by at least three different bell founders.
|The bells viewed from above, in the 'up' position.
|Become a Tower Bell Ringer at St. Mary's
"A timeless art, carried out by generations of ringers since the end of the 17th century."
We need some more people learning to ring at Ecclesfield. It could be the interest you are
looking for. There is a place for you.
Church bell ringing is a team activity that is good mental exercise; it challenges you to use
your brain and helps to keep you fit. In learning to ring you will be part of a global group of
friends, start a lifelong learning experience, maintain a traditional skill and serve your
community. It is a fun hobby open to everyone.
Ringing does not require a large amount of effort, only an ability to count, a sense of timing,
a willingness to ring for Sunday services and attend practice nights as often as possible. No
musical knowledge is needed and no music is used. Ringing is well within the capabilities of
There's a social side to ringing, too. Ringers visit other towers (there are 5,000 in the UK), and
most enjoy keeping a record of where they have been. We arrange outings to other parts of
the UK, ringing in some lovely towns and villages, seeing the sights and usually a nice pub
lunch, picnic, chip shop to finish off the day.
It doesn't matter what age you are, adults and young people are all welcome. Children must
attend with a parent or carer on their first visit and first lessons and should be at least 11
years old. We have a Child Protection Policy.
Our practice night is Tuesday from 7.30 pm to 9.00 pm. We hold an additional
practice on Friday from 7.30 pm to 9.00 pm using the computer ringing simulator,
which enables us to practice without the bells being audible outside the tower.
Why not come along and see what we do? Access is via the back of the church, through the
small wooden door opposite the old vicarage and up the spiral stairs. Alternatively, please get
in touch with us or visit our website.
Philip Hirst: (0114) 2862766
Stuart Armeson: (0114) 2456065
|The oldest bell in the ring of ten is the ninth. It is believed to have been cast by Henry Dand,
circa 1590. It has a Latin inscription: "Hec Campana Sacra Fiat Trinitate Beata," which
means Let This Bell Be Made Holy by the Blessed Trinity.
There is another 16th century bell in the tower, the Sanctus bell, which is dated circa 1580.
There is no information to identify who cast it. It is not hung for change ringing, therefore is
not part of the ring of ten. It would have originally been used to signal to the village, and
those not able to attend the service, that Mass was being celebrated. It has always been
known to the ringers as 'Tom Tinker.'
The tenor bell, which is the heaviest at 14 cwt. - l qtr. - 221b (734kg), was cast in 1617 by
William Oldfield of York. It has the inscription "Jesus Be Our Speed."
In the 1600s, Ecclesfield had four bells, then two were added in 1750 to make six in the key of
F. The two new bells were the gift of John Watts Esq. of Barnes Hall and were cast by the
Rotherham foundry of Ludlam and Walker. They are still in the tower as the fifth and sixth
in the present ring of ten.
|By the early 1840s, plans were in place to increase the number of bells again. The third and
fourth bells of the ring of six (i.e. the seventh and eighth in the present ring of ten) were
recast in 1844. The following year, two new treble bells were cast, to create a ring of eight in
the key of F (these are the third and fourth in the present ring of ten). The work was carried
out by the Charles and George Mears Foundry, now known as the Whitechapel Bell
The Reverend Dr. Alfred Gatty was Vicar of Ecclesfield at this time. He was interested in bells
and wrote a book, published in 1848, entitled "The Bell: It's Origin, History and Uses."
The bells have been re-hung several times as the wooden bell frames deteriorated and the
plain bearings wore away. The last wooden frame was replaced with the present metal one in
1952 by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon. The wooden bell frame in place at the time was
removed because it was found to be infested with death watch beetle. The bell strike notes
were also re-tuned at this time. As a result of the work in 1952, the bell ropes were hung so
that the rope circle was clockwise from 1 to 8 (previously it was anti-clockwise, which is
unusual). The total cost of all the work was £1,500. The bells were rededicated on Thursday
22nd May 1952.
|In 2011 the bells were again removed from the tower, this time by the Whitechapel Bell
Foundry in preparation for adding two more bells. They were taken to the foundry in
London where retuning was carried out to five of the original eight bells. No tuning work
was carried out to the ninth. Two were recast (the third and fourth) and two brand new bells
were cast (the first and second). All the bearings were replaced and the wrought iron clappers
refurbished with new crown staples and stainless steel pivot pins. New framework was added
to the existing frame to take the extra two bells and to reorder the others. The newly
augmented bells were rung for the first time on Thursday 1st December 2011. The
Rededication service was held on Saturday 11th February 2012.
We would like to thank our benefactor who kindly offered to pay for the two new bells and all
individuals, charities and other organisations who have contributed to our appeal. Thanks also
to the Sheffield Branch of the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers, who funded the cost of
recasting one of the original bells.