Bell Ringing at St Marie's

St Marie's is one of a limited number of Catholic churches with bells intended for [1]Change Ringing.

When the church opened in 1850 it had just one bell, the Angelus Bell, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and cast by [2]Charles & George Mears, whose foundry was based in the Whitechapel area of London.

The Angelus Bell is still used today, Weighs almost a tonne and is 1.25 metres in diameter, making it the second biggest bell in the tower today.

It is designed to be chimed - rung by striking with a hammer or by moving the bell or its clapper while hanging with its mouth down - and is the only bell that can be made to sound from the ground floor of the church, using an electronic switch.

The first 'ring' made up of eight bells was installed in 1861, 11 years after the church opened and 120 years before St Marie's became a Cathedral.

The original bells were made from steel, rather than bell metal, which is a type of bronze that produces a more pleasant sound.

The current ring of eight bronze bells was installed in 1874.

Each bell bears a Latin inscription. Seven of the inscriptions follow the medieval Catholic custom of giving every church bell a saint's Christian name.

The tenor - the bell with the lowest note and the heaviest in the tower, weighing 1.27 tonnes -  is unusual in that it is not named after a saint, but dedicated to "Christ, the Sacred Heart."

Detailed records exist of the St Marie's band of bell ringers' activities from 1874 until 1955, when they inexplicably stop.

It seems likely that the St Marie's band collapsed soon afterwards. Today the bells are rung by members of the Sheffield University Guild of Change Ringers, with help from local ringers for weddings during vacations.

However, following visits to the bell chamber, organised by St Marie's Heritage Officer, three members of the congregation are learning to ring and hoping to encourage more to join them when they have more experience.

Bells of St Marie's Cathedral Gallery

Interested in learning to ring St Marie's bells? Please contact Bob Rae - e-mail: bob.rae@stmariecathedral.org or contact Cathedral House.

[1] Change ringing  s the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a controlled manner to produce variations in their striking sequences.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitechapel_Bell_Foundry