The St Peter’s bell ringers are a happy band and are always ready to welcome new members and visitors.  Our main object in ringing is, of course, week by week, to proclaim the Glory of God and to announce Sunday and other services to the people of Petersfield and to the world at large.

Service Ringing:  Sunday 9 – 9.25 a.m. for the Eucharist and at other times by appointment

Practice Night:     Monday 7.30 – 9pm

Learners:                Monday from 7pm onwards (by arrangement)

St Peter’s bell ringers are members of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers.

The Bells

St. Peter’s has a ring of eight bells in the approximate key of F.

The smallest bell, the Treble, weighs 4cwt 1gr 14lbs and its diameter is 2′ 3¼″.  The other bells in the ring gradually increase in weight and size and their notes go down the octave, until No.8, the Tenor, weight approximately 15cwt, diameter 3′ 8 3/4″ is reached.  In 1991, the last time that a proper inspection was carried out, Whitechapel Bell Foundry remarked that “all the bells appear sound, and are quite fair for tone and tune.”  A chime hammer is fitted to the Treble bell so that it can be operated at ground level, primarily so that the Sanctus may be rung during the Celebration of the Eucharist.  Clock hammers are fitted to the 4th, 6th and Tenor bells for the church clock to strike ting tang quarters and hours.

The earliest history of the bells is lost in the mists of time: a church inventory of 1553 lists “3 great bells in the steeple”, but their real documented history begins only 200 years later.  In his “Hampshire Church Bells” WE Colchester warns that “…it must be borne in mind that hundreds of old bells have been recast and recast again….some bells four or five times….many have disappeared.”  So it appears with our bells: a note in the parish records for 1750 states “Second and third Bells to be taken down and returned to Mr Lester as not fit for the Peal and that the first, second and third bells be sent to Mr Catlin to be recast in order to make the Peal compleat.”  This seems hardly to make sense, but it does in some way correspond with what little else is known about this period.

Thomas Lester was a bellfounder operating from 1738 onwards and certainly cast Petersfield No.6 in 1746.  Robert Catlin, operating at much the same time cast Petersfield Nos.4 and 5 in London in 1750.  There were certainly bells in the tower before 1750 as the note proves, but as to whether they were the Tudor ‘originals’, or the last in a series of previous recasts, who knows?  Perhaps this was when the ring was made ‘compleat’ by increasing the number of bells to five or six so that proper change-ringing could take place.  Repairing and recasting have continued as necessary ever since, e.g. 1867: “To get an estimate for hanging the Tenor Bell after repair.”  The ring was augmented from six to eight by the addition of two new trebles only in 1889.  The bell-frame dates from 1895.  The bells were completely overhauled and re-hung on ball-bearings in 1934.

Details of the present ring are as follows:

  • Treble  1889  Warner Inscription “WT Neighbour & A Wilson gave me 1889” recast by Whitechapel 1978.
  • No.2  1889 Warner “FJ Causton Vicar 1889” recast by Whitechapel 1978.
  • No.3  1895  Taylors of Loughborough “Venite Jubilemus Deo Salutari Nostro”
  • No.4  1750 Catlin “Robert Catlin London Fecit 1750”
  • No.5  1750 Catlin “Robert Catlin London Fecit 1750”
  • No.6  1746  Lester recast by Taylors 1905
  • No.7  1895  Taylors “Congregate Illi Sanctos Ejus”
  • Tenor  1770  Pack & Chapman (Whitechapel) “William Blunt and Thomas Burch Churchwardens, Pack & Chapman of London 1770”

What of the ringers?

“It has been said that to be a ringer in eighteenth century England was to be a layabout and a drunk.  This is an exaggerated view, but the standards of  behaviour were indeed low.” (John Camp “Discovering Bells and Bellringing”).

Much of the ringing seems to have been carried out for secular purposes, and it was not until the Church reforms of the nineteenth century that ringing began to resume its main function as a part of worship.  In Victorian Petersfield there was never a shortage of ringers, especially towards the end of the era when the Rev.Cyril Edwards was Captain.  Mr Edwards was Assistant Priest of the parish from 1887 to 1901, which gave bells and ringers a high profile.  The first women ringers in Petersfield were brought in during the First World War to fill the gaps left by men at the front.  It was only in the 1920s that teenagers – boys of course – were allowed to learn.  Now we are ‘politically correct’ and have a good mix of all ages and both sexes.

All the great national milestones of the last century were marked by ringing at St. Peter’s, from Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 down to September 1997 when we rang half-muffled following the funeral of the Princess of Wales. We also rang to usher in the New Millennium. A variety of beautiful painted, printed and embroidered peal boards, photographs and other memorabilia adorn the walls of the ringing chamber to attest to the ringers’ continual service over the years.

Tower Captain:   Madeline King madelineking104@btinternet.com

Updated 18th April 2016