Let’s all hear those Easter bells!

Here’s something else to cheer us up on a sunny – if a little chilly – Tuesday after Easter.

It was good to know that Bath Abbey’s Tower Master Matthew Butler was allowed into an otherwise closed church to ring the Ellacombe Chimes on Easter Sunday morning.

The Ellacombe apparatus is a mechanism devised for performing change ringing on church bells by striking stationary bells with hammers.

Ellacombe chimes - Bath Abbey
The Abbey’s Ellacombe Chimes (library picture)

However, it does not have the same sound as full circle ringing due to the absence of doppler effect as the bells do not rotate and the lack of a damping effect of the clapper after each strike.

Mike Mower just happened to be passing Abbey Church Yard as the bells began ringing and has very kindly sent this video for us all to enjoy. It’s so weird to hear the sound against such an empty city.

Thanks Mike for letting us see that.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Ellacombe Chimes, according to Wikipedia: “It requires only one person to operate, unlike the traditional method, where the bells are rotated through over 360 degrees (full circle ringing) to sound them and one person is needed for each bell.

Instead, the bells are kept static (or “hung dead”) and a hammer is struck against the inside of the bell. Each hammer is connected by a rope to a fixed frame in the bell-ringing room. When in use the ropes are taut, and pulling one of the ropes towards the player will strike the hammer against the bell. To enable full circle ringing to also take place in the same tower, the Ellacombe Chimes ropes must be slackened to allow the hammers to drop away from the moving bells.

The system was devised in 1821 by Reverend Henry Thomas Ellacombe of Gloucestershire, who first had such a system installed in Bitton in 1822. He created the system as an alternative to using his local ringers and did not have to tolerate the behaviour that he saw as unruly.

The Revd Ellacombe was the editor of the bell ringing column of a church periodical called “Church Bells”, and was not slow to criticise the actions of bell ringers who did not ring exclusively for church services.

A particular target was “prize ringing”, where teams from different churches competed for a prize for the best ringing, usually accompanied by a social event. An example was in 1875 when he weighed in with a diatribe against a ringing competition at Slapton in Devon, when he wrote, “We blame the Vicar and churchwardens for allowing the bells to be so prostituted for the benefits of a publican’s pocket…”.[1]