Monday, 14 November 2011

A peal appeal


The November edition of Saltaire's village magazine, Saltaire Sentinel, carries an appeal for new bell-ringers to join the team at the historic Saltaire United Reformed Church.  Ringing practice is on Monday evenings at 7pm and those interested are invited to come to the tower on a practice night to see what the role involves.

Saltaire's Congregational Church (now the URC) was opened in 1859 but it was not until 1870 that bells were hung in the tower, in accordance with Sir Titus Salt's original intentions.  Made in Birmingham at a cost of £300, there were six bells, hung so as to enable traditional English Change Ringing.  (The world of bell-ringing is wonderfully historic and full of arcane terminology.  I tried it myself when I was at university, just out of interest.  I had a great uncle who was a bell-ringer at Newark Parish Church so maybe it's in my blood.)  Bells are very rare in non-conformist churches but they were happily accepted by Saltaire's residents.

It is believed that the original bells were rung for the last time in 1918, for the signing of the Armistice at the end of the 1st World War.  By then they had realised that the tower was not strong enough to support the stress involved in ringing.  The bells were later scrapped, for a value of £85.

Jonathan Silver, the entrepreneur who rescued Saltaire in the 1980s, sadly died in 1997.  His widow, Maggie, chose to provide a new set of bells for the church as a memorial to Jonathan.  The tower was strengthened and bells cast in Holland, this time costing £30,000, were installed in 2003.  They were rung for the first time in September 2003 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Sir Titus Salt's birth and the 150th anniversary of the opening of Salts Mill.  Again the village has almost universally welcomed them (though wooden baffles were added in the tower to make life easier for the residents of Albert Terrace whose homes directly face the church).  I love to hear them ringing to call people to church on Sunday mornings and for weddings and special occasions.

(Information largely gathered from Saltaire URC's own guide book.)

17 comments:

  1. I like your title and your picture. There's something romantic about hearing church bells. Too bad they are so rare these days.

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  2. I have just returned from a New England touring holiday and I must say that Titus's church would not look at all out of place in Hyannas, Cape Cod or anywhere along the eastern sea-board of New England.
    As for the bell ringing, yes I also have had a brief experience of campanology but fear my none existent sense of timing and inability to lip read instructions from the chief bell-ringer amid the cocophony of peeling bells did rather put me at a disadvantage. I do, however, love to lay abed on Sunday morning and listen to the "bells" on radio four . . . so very quinquennially English don't you think?

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  3. I learned a lot today! I can imagine such a demanding activity would be hard to sustain, despite its traditions. There are so many other activities competing for time. Jim

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  4. Great post! English Change Ringing was central to one of my favorite Lord Peter mysteries, 'The Nine Tailors.' by Dorothy L. Sayers. :-)

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  5. Church bells ringing are fine : but they need to be a good distance away. Those bells in Saltaire are fine for me : just the right distance.

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  6. I like hearing bells! i live near a church, and bells tell me about the time, the hour, the events..

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  7. I would love to be a bell ringer...but I can't read music and have no rhythm....hmmmm....that could be a problem.

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  8. I couldn't be a bell-ringer Jenny but oh! how I'd love to sit and listen to the melodious pealing of those bells.

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  9. I love to hear church bells! I too have tried ringing, but only the once. I was on teaching practice with a campanologist when I was at university and she took me along to practice. It was fun, but not something I felt compelled to continue.

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  10. Anita, I'm not sure that you need to read music, I think the leader calls the ringing. But I guess a bit of rhythm would help.

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  11. I love the sound of bells! Please a recording some time!
    With modern technology should be feasible to share?

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  12. I like your composition today, jenny. Bell ringing is not for me as a potential new hobby, but I do love the sound of church bells. As I also love the sound of a tall case clock chiming the hours.

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  13. We have very few churches with bells in the suburbs. Some of the big city churches have bell. I had rarely heard church bells until I married Bill and went back to his homeland, Switzerland. I loved hearing the bells every Sunday and on special occasions. Bill used to be a bell ringer in the town's main church when he was a teenager. Now most of the churches have automatic bells. I'm not sure how they work but they still sound the same. It is great that Saltaire is keeping the old tradition. You live in a great village.

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  14. You've chosen an angle that makes us want to see more of the building. Well done. Gorgeous architecture.

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  15. I would love to know more about and hear some change-ringing. Ever since reading NINE TAILORS, I've been fascinated by the subject.

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  16. I absolutely love the sound of bells ringing. ~Lili

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