Bell Ringers

Westbourne tower has a ring of eight bells which are hung for full-circle ringing, the traditional style of ringing which flourishes in this country and the former colonies. The bells form an octave with the heaviest, the tenor, weighing almost exactly half a ton (10 cwt.). We have an active and enthusiastic band of ringers, numbering just over 20, who ring for two services on Sunday and practise on Monday evenings, with occasional special sessions on Thursdays. Our repertoire extends to a dozen or so of the traditional English change-ringing methods, including well established favourites such as Grandsire Triples, Stedman Triples, Plain Bob Major and Kent Treble Bob Major.

The bells are rung from a room about 30 feet up the tower, with only a short draught of rope - a feature which makes them relatively easy to ring.  They have a long history: there were four bells here in 1724; they were augmented  to six in 1770; and then to eight in 1933.  There has been an active band for most of two and a half two centuries.  A special peal board on the walls of the ringing room commemorates one of their early achievements in 1785; and in the same year they were called on to demonstrate their expertise to the composer John Marsh, Chichester’s most distinguished musician, when he brought over a group of gentleman amateurs to learn from their skills. One of the difficult challenges in change ringing is the accomplishment of a full peal of 5000 changes, which demands almost three hours unbroken concentration and precise control from all eight ringers.  The first was rung in 1933 (after the bells were augmented) and to date the total has reached 123.On a more regular basis, the band tackles quarter peals, which demand similar skills and concentration but last about three quarters of an hour. Our total currently stands at 357 since the end of World War 2.  Many of these were rung to mark special events in both village and national life - church bells have always been used in this way.  Westbourne has a special tradition of its own, however: on the wooden clockcase in the corner of the ringing room are pencilled the names of the ringers who rang to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.  The Relief of Mafeking is marked in a similar way - and virtually every historic event down to Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee.

Ringing times are as follows:

  • Sundays: 8.55-9.30 am;
  • 5.30-6.00 pm.
  • Monday: 7.00-9.00 pm.

For further information please contact Cyril Shutler (01243 373804, Tower Secretary) or Peter Wilkinson (01243 575414, Tower Captain).

For information on ringing nationally visit the website of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, www.cccbr.org.uk and for information on Sussex visit that of the Sussex County Association of Change Ringers www.scacr.org.uk.