Bell Ringing 

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The Bells

The spire of the church rises to a height of close upon 200 ft and is the highest in Sheffield . If you look just below the spire, you can see some louvres: behind these St John’s has ten bells. The largest weighs 16cwt 1lb 5oz. The foundations of the original church were laid in 1877 and William Smith of Hallam Head gave a peal of eight bells cast by James Barwell, a bell founder from Birmingham. The tower, spire and bells survived the fire of 1887 which destroyed the church and the eight bells were rung regularly.

In 1934 the bells were recast, two trebles added, and a new frame and ringing gear installed by Gillet and Johnston, bell founders and clockmakers of Croydon. Money for this work was raised by subscription from the parishioners. No further major work was done on the bells until 1992/93 when the fittings, (bearings and pullies) were renovated by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough, the local band supplying the labour.

The bells are made of an alloy of 77% copper and 23% tin called “bell metal”. They are rung by a band of ringers, one per bell, with the traditional “rope and wheel” from the ringing chamber, at the top of the spiral staircase behind the door to the left just inside the outside door from the porch.

Ringing at St John’s ‘Full circle’ change ringing has developed, mainly in England, over about 350 years. There are now over 5000 churches in the British Isles with rings of bells. Each time the bell sounds, it has swung from a mouth upwards position through a full circle until it is mouth upwards again, where it is controlled by the ringer’s pull on the rope and held momentarily in this balanced position until allowed to swing in the opposite direction again to strike in its proper position among the other bells.

The St John’s band of ringers consists of both people who were taught to ring at Ranmoor and those who learnt elsewhere and have moved into the area. Often visitors from other towers come and join in the ringing. New learners are always welcome and several people taught here now ring at other towers.

As well as ringing for weddings, the bells are heard twice on Sundays for services and at the ringers’ Tuesday evening practice. To celebrate special events quarter peals are sometimes rung. These consist of 1,250 changes rung without stopping and last for about 45 minutes. Occasionally the bells are rung continuously for 3 to 4 hours to complete a full peal in which each bell rings over 5,000 times.

Visitors are always most welcome: please come up into the tower when you hear the bells ringing, but do open the door at the top of the stairs gently in order to avoid getting in the way of the ropes. There will be a notice on the door downstairs if there is a special performance when the ringers need to be left undisturbed to concentrate.

Ringing times are:
between 10.00 am – 10.30 am & 5.45 pm – 6.30 pm
and  Tuesday (Practice) between 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm.

Tower Captain: Richard Noble

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