Bell-Ringing at Shipham and Rowberrow Churches

Bell-Ringing at Shipham

Hear Shipham's bells as broadcast on BBC Radio. Click on the link below


Contrary to popular belief, the ringing of church bells does not require great strength and we do not swing about wildly on the end of our ropes! Ringing is a very precise hobby which takes great concentration and many hours of practice. You will need to develop a neat and tidy style, quick responses and good control in order to strike your bell in the correct place. However, ringing your first ‘rounds’ with the rest of the ‘band’ is the first step into a whole new world. Now you can walk into any tower and immediately find a whole group of new friends with a common interest. Finally, your mind will be kept active, your body fit and your sense of humour challenged!!! If you can ride a bike and laugh at yourself then ringing is for you!!!

Ringing on our outing in 2011

At Shipham we meet once a week on Tuesday evening for a practice, ring for Sunday services and some weddings. Once a month our more experienced ringers attempt a Quarter Peal (40 minutes ringing without a mistake!). Our visits to other towers to meet their ringers and try their bells are great fun and sometimes we have visitors at Shipham too. Taking part in ringing competitions is a real challenge to our team work abilities, and our annual outing is an extravaganza of ringing and eating!!

See our entry under Clubs and Societies


Church bells are made from an alloy of copper and tin (bronze) and can weigh anything from a few cwt up to several tons. The tenor (heaviest bell) at Shipham weighs 6cwt whereas the tenor at Wells Cathedral weighs 56cwt!

Over the last 400 years the ringing of church bells has changed considerably; from the striking of a static bell with a moving clapper to the swinging of bells in a full circle by use of a wheel, rope, stay and slider. The ringers of today have such accurate control over the speed at which their bells ring that all kinds of complex ‘changes’ are now possible.

Early changes involved a ‘conductor’ calling out each new order, but ringers were soon experimenting with set patterns (called ‘methods’) which could be learnt in advance. Today there are literally thousands of different methods but the early favourites of Stedman and Grandsire are still the most popular even today.

Today the ringing of church bells involves a wide variety of skills, providing us with physical, mental and social challenges. The following excerpt from a ringers’ prayer sums it up perfectly:

As we ring our bells

We co-ordinate

Our bodies and minds,

Keeping time

And controlling our bells

And our concentration

Takes away our

Anxieties and worries


The Shipham Band of 2012 has two new service ringers, six experienced ringers, two reserves and one honorary ringer. We are very proud of our youngest ringer who recently came second in the Bath and Wells Young Ringer of the Year Award.


“At first I thought it would be really boring and I didn’t believe I would keep it up for long, but I was mistaken. Although most of the ringers I know are older and more experienced, they are still a good laugh and a lot of fun to ring with. However I do particularly enjoy the monthly young ringers’ practices that we have.”


“When I moved to Shipham I didn't know anyone and after seeing a recruitment notice for bell ringers I decided to go along and see what it was all about – I have been there ever since - 14 years! I was Pam's first pupil at Shipham and there have been many since. I have made many friends, learning a new skill which is challenging, mentally stimulating, teaches you co-ordination and involves being part of a team. No matter where you go you will always find some bells to ring and a warm welcome.”


“At my father’s suggestion I very reluctantly had my first pull on a bell-rope in Kenilworth at the age of 16, and have been hooked ever since. After 44 years I am still learning and enjoying every minute of it! I even met my husband Paul in a bell-tower! ”


Bell: a hollow instrument that emits a musical ringing sound when struck.

Clapper: a piece of metal suspended within a bell that strikes against its side to make it sound.

Muffle: a leather ‘shield’ fitted over one side of the clapper to create a mournful echo.

Sally: the coloured, fluffy, woollen part of a bell-rope.

Tail-end: the extreme end of a bell-rope.

Bell Chamber: the part of a tower or steeple in which bells are hung.

Ringing Chamber: the part of a tower from which the bells are rung by the ringers.

Campanology: the art and skill of ringing bells.

Ring up: swing a bell higher and higher until it can be balanced with the mouth facing upwards.

Rounds: when bells are rung in order from the lightest down to the heaviest.

Ring the changes: To ring the bells in a different order at each pull of the rope until the ringing comes back to its starting point (rounds). Each different row or variation is called a change.

Peal: the ringing of 5040 different changes without stopping or making a mistake.

Quarter Peal: the ringing of 1260 changes without stopping or making a mistake.

Ring down: swing a bell less and less until it comes to rest safely with the mouth facing downwards.


In 1733 Thomas Bilbie of Chew Stoke cast five bells for the Church of St Leonard in Shipham. The tenor bell weighs 6cwt and is tuned to Bb. It is the heaviest bell in the tower but fairly light compared to most bells in Somerset.

In 1927 the bells were re-hung by Llewellyn and James of Bristol - the original third bell was re-cast and a new treble was added, making a peal of six bells.

In 1995 the bells were completely refurbished and re-tuned by Taylor’s Bell Foundry.

The bells re-installed at Shipham

Friends from local towers

join us on our outing