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24 September 2014

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A man bell ringing

The Bells, the bells....

When those church bells ring out on a Sunday, have you ever stopped to wonder who's ringing them? Hundreds of people across Sussex and Surrey practise the art of campanology - find out more.

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The next time you hear church bells, stop and listen just a bit harder.

It might seem that those bells always sound the same, but in fact they are often playing different tunes.

First, you can often hear a bell pealing. The ringer - and most church towers have a set of ringers - are pulling on the bell rope to make the bell to move bacwards and forwards to strike the clapper. This is the kind of bell-ringing that you'll hear on Sunday before a church service.

Fans of Hemingway or Clint Eastwood will know the second sort of bell ringing - the toll. Here the bell is rung by a rope tied to the clapper. You'd hear this at a church funeral; it's a solemn sound.

Just to make this all a bit more complicated, there are also different sorts of peals.  Change ringing, where bells are rung in different sequences, is the most popular sort of peal ringing.

A church tower

The sequences have names which smack of Olde England - Plain Bob Major, Grandsire Doubles, White Nile Treble Bob.

If you hear church bells ringing for a long time, then the bell ringers are practising their changes. The order that the bells are rung in changes in every sequence, so a seven bell change can take up to three hours.

So what is it about bell ringing that gets people together every Sunday? We went along to a gathering of ringers in Ringmer - yes really - and they told us why the bell tolls for them....

last updated: 22/08/07

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