Bells have been rung at the Abbey for hundreds of years, since before the 16th century, and we are proud to carry on this tradition today. We are very fond of our bells, of which there are ten in total, and these continue to be rung regularly for services, weddings, and other momentous occasions, often celebratory, as well as sometimes sad.
The Abbey’s ten bells are rung every Sunday morning. As the Abbey will, from 26 January 2020, temporarily be moving to a single morning service at 10.15am while the Footprint project is carried out, our ringing times during this period will be as follows:
- 1st and 3rd Sundays: meet 9.20am to ring 9.30am-10.15am
- 2nd and 4th Sundays: meet 11.15am and ring until about 12pm
- 5th Sundays: by arrangement
Practice takes place on Monday evenings between 7.30pm and 9pm (including Bank Holidays).
Further information can be found on the Bath & Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers or Bath Branch Bellringing website.
How to Join Us
Our friendly and enthusiastic band of ringers meets outside the main public entrance of the Abbey 10 minutes before the start of Sunday service ringing. On practice night (Mondays) the ringers meet by the entrance to the Abbey Shop from 7.20pm. Please note that the door is locked at 7.40pm and further entry is not possible after this time.
Visiting ringers are always welcome to come and join us as are any members of the public who would like to observe the ringing. Please ask at our Welcome Desk for details or email the Abbey's Tower Master, Matthew Butler (contact details below).
Alternatively, we also offer Tower Tours, which are a great way to go behind-the-scenes and see the ringing chamber and belfry.
The Abbey Ringers also have an active training program for people wishing to learn change ringing.
For more information about Bath Abbey Bellringers please email the Tower Master, Matthew Butler on [email protected] or by calling the Abbey Office on 01225 422462.
The Bells of Bath Abbey
If an Abbey ringer from the 18th century entered the tower today, he would feel quite at home. Not much has changed: eight of our ten bells date from 1700, two smaller bells were added in 1774 to make the present ring of ten, and they still hang in the original timber frame.
Perhaps the most unusual feature is that our bells are hung in a descending scale, in an anti-clockwise direction; a curious phenomenon shared with just a handful of churches in the country. The smallest bell, known as the Treble, weighs just under 6 cwt (1/4 of a ton), while the largest, known as the Tenor, weighs over 33 cwt (1.5 tons), a mere lightweight when compared with the tenor of St Paul’s Cathedral at over 62 cwt (3 tons).
In 1869, the Tenor unexpectedly cracked during ringing practice one night, and had to be recast. The replacement was examined by the Abbey organist, and given the go-ahead. However, when it was hauled up and reinstalled, it proved to be out of tune, so it had to be recast a second time! The replacement bell survives to this day. It is inscribed: 'All you of Bathe that hear me sound Thank Lady Hopton's hundred pound' referring to the original Tenor bell cast in the 17th century and gifted by the Hopton family of Witham Friary.
A full restoration of the bells took place in 1957, thanks to the Friends of Bath Abbey, with contributions from other sources, as well as a second major refurbishment in 2004. Routine maintenance, as well as additional work including the repair of the Ellacombe chimes, again funded by Friends of Bath Abbey, continues to be carried out today. Fortunately all our bells are in full working order now and we have a fantastic team of bell ringers who create the most wonderful sounds each week.
For further details of the bells see Dove's Online Guide for Church Bellringers.