Bell tower challenge has nice ring to it

Churches and cathedrals are being challenged to show people the ropes by bringing to life the 400-year old tradition of English-style bell ringing as part of Heritage Open Days this September. The call to the ringing world to open up 500 sites will provide a unique opportunity for ringing bands across England to share the heritage hidden inside their bell towers as well as their passion with millions of visitors who every year venture out to discover the treasures on their doorstep.

Bell ringing at All Saints, Kingston upon Thames© Kate Flavell -

Bell ringers across the country are already signing up to take part in Challenge 500 including enthusiasts at some of the country’s most significant and interesting locations such as the ringing chamber at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. This is where the first recorded peal took place in May 1715 and where there are plans to develop a ringing heritage and teaching centre.

The tradition of change ringing is a unique form of music that has its roots in England. Instead of 'tunes' the bells ring in orderly sequences that the ringers learn as patterns and then ring from memory. Ringers control the bell with a rope, while the bell turns full circle, mounted on a wheel. Famous people who are reported to have rung bells include comedians Victoria Wood, Jo Brand and Timmy Mallett, gardener Alan Titchmarsh and entertainer and writer Frank Muir.

In addition to the Challenge 500 ringers are invited to come together to create a collective bell ringing moment as part of the festival on Thursday 8th September between 1800 – 1900 hours.

Loyd Grossman, Patron of Heritage Open Days, said:  “Heritage Open Days provides the perfect opportunity to join together to bring to life the four-hundred year old tradition of English-style bell ringing for a huge audience. We are keen to recruit churches and cathedrals to become involved in the festival by registering an event for visitors to discover their bell towers and to take part in hands on demonstrations.”

Chris Mew, President of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, said: “We are excited that bell ringers will join this annual celebration of our cultural treasures. There are 5,000 bell towers for change ringing and our challenge is to unlock the doors to 500 of them. What’s more, some visitors may be able to see the bells, often locked away over our heads, discover our ringing forebears’ achievements recorded on peal boards, learn about bell ringing and maybe have a go themselves.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Ringing out the bells over Heritage Open Days is a great way to bring people’s attention to the cultural and historical significance of bell ringing and its preservation. We are excited that millions of visitors will be able to discover the hidden history of bell towers in churches and cathedrals which will be free to access over four days.”

To take part in the challenge and to be counted, bell towers need to register with Heritage Open Days by 1st August 2016. By registering, all participants will be able to access a free marketing support pack and their event will be listed at www.heritageopendays.org.uk from mid-July. For more information, visit this page or email info@heritageopendays.org.uk

Download the full press release and a preview of bell tower highlights here.