Site map Home Ringing at All Saints All Saints Ringers All Saints Tower Bell restoration Project Visiting All Saints Learning to Ring About Bellringing History of Ringing Articles Links Diary Contact us

The voice of the church

Front cover of the bookThe Guild of Clerical Ringers (ringing clergy) recently published: The Voice of the Church – Bells and bellringers in the life of the Church of England,

The ringing community can be hard for non-ringers, including those in the church, to appreciate, and the authors of the book, who inhabit both church and ringing communities, aim to bridge the gap.

The book explains the special sound of ringing and the skill behind it, and also the history. Ringers were independent for centuries. Bells were in church towers but (except the chancel) church buildings were community assets. (It’s interesting that SpaceForAll is bringing the community back into our building in a way that was normal when it was first built.) ‘Ringing’ (many bells in sequence) was for secular events and sport, not for calling people to worship, which was done by a sexton tolling a single bell.

Around 150 years ago, a group of clergy inspired by the ‘Oxford Movement’ set about ‘Belfry Reform’. They drew in ringers as church workers, set up ringing societies, and promoted change ringing (which requires more mental discipline than just ringing in a fixed order). Change ringing was first introduced at All Saints in 1873 by the then curate, and in 1880 Wokingham was at the heart of the new Sonning Deanery Society.

The book discusses the role of ringing in the modern church, and the relationship between the church and ringers, many of whom may not be religious but are happy to serve the church and community in return for the challenge, cameraderie and satisfaction they derive from ringing.

At All Saints we have a strong relationship between ringers and the church, and we have had three notable ringing clergy. Rev FE Robinson was a leading proponent of Belfry Reform and is buried here. Rev Bertram Long was a founder member of the Clerical Guild and Rector here from 1904 to 1933. Rev Gilbert Thurlow, was president of the ringers Central Council and Dean of Gloucester, and Curate here from 1935 to 1937.

For details of The Voice of the Church see:  

For my own (2017) exploration of the relationship see: 

John Harrison (May 2024)  


Back to top Return to Article list Feedback