Church, Elbow Park, Calgary
Bells, Our Bells, And Change Ringing
Christ Church dates to 1913 and originally there was just a single bell. It came to us after ringing in St. Michael and All Angels Church (Holy Cross). That bell is now hanging at St Michael and All Angels, Canmore.
The vision of the octave of change ringing bells dates to the building of the bell tower, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1954 by Michael Ramsay, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the early 1950, a group of parishioners, lead by Judge E. Tavender, purchased bells for the church. The bells were designed and tuned by Gillett and Johnston of Croyden, Surrey England. The three tenors were cast at the Surrey foundry and the five trebles at John Taylor of Loughborough. They hang in a conventional steel "A" frame in the upper chamber. Originally they were fitted with an Ellacombe chiming apparatus, which is now disconnected.
After a long wait, a longer voyage, and time installing the bells, they were ready to be rung. The eight bells in the tower are hung for a type of bell ringing called change ringing, an ancient English art based on mathematics. Each bell has a wheel with a rope and swings in just-over a full circle so minute changes can be made to the speed of the swinging.
So, the gift of bells came to the high prairie. Then, as now, the real gift was to find ringers! Finally, on September 8th, 1957, all eight bells were rung! And the tradition continues to this day.
to the ringing chamber, completed in 1994, include insulation and paneling,
double-paned glass, new carpet and new maple seats and coat
Today, the church is working to restore the tower louvres and exterior cladding, as well as other improvements to protect bells and ringers alike especially in the winter months. Your support is most welcome!
Bells are cast in bronze and are usually quitelarge. In North America tower bells typically weigh between 100 and 3600 pounds and are characterized by richness, dignity, and mellowness of tone. They are typically hung in rings of 8 to 12 near the top of a tower in the belfry. Each bell is attached by its headstock to a large vertical wooden wheel and is rung by means of a long rope that runs in a channel around the wheel's rim and down into the ringing room below. This arrangement enables the ringers standing in a circle there to very precisely control their bell's rotation and, thus, its sounding. In this tradition, Christ Church's Bells are as follows:
(B flat) - 366 lbs [3-1-2 cwt] Diameter: 22.5".
(A) - 350 lbs
(G) - 406 lbs
(F) - 472 lbs
(E Flat) - 550 lbs
(D) - 590 lbs
- (Middle C) - 708 lbs
- (B Flat) - 952 lbs [8 1/2 cwt.] 35.25".
The verses on the third and fifth were written by Edith Hunter (Mrs. H. Murray), a parishioner.
The Church also owns a set of eight Gillett & Johnston handbells in the key of C which were supplied with the tower bells for practice use. These handbells were quite possibly the first of their kind in Calgary.
North American and Canadian Bells
are only seven towers in Canada with bells hung for change ringing:
Change Ringing and Methods
Ringing is a team sport, a highly coordinated musical performance, an
antique art, and a demanding exercise that involves a group of people
ringing rhythmically a set of tuned bells through a series of changing
sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed
according to learned patterns. In the ringing room, ringers stand in a
circle, one behind each rope. The person ringing the lightest bell, the
Treble, calls out the
who has been designated the conductor will soon announce the method to
be rung by calling out, for example, "Go, Grandsire Triples,"
ringing has a long history. From the 12th century, the chiming of tower
bells had been customary in all English villages to tell the time of day
and to call people to church services. Ringing changes on these bells
first arose around the year 1600 in the eastern counties of England, having
been made possible by two parallel developments. The motivating development
was the desire for the bells to be heard more broadly over the countryside
and for the
music sheets are used during ringing. The ringers commit various methods
to memory and shift within or among them according to occasional short
"calls" from their conductor. Methods
do not resemble either the tunes typically played on a carillon or the
jangle of European style church bell ringing but instead are the majestic
pealing that is associated with great English state ceremonies as well
as humble village weddings. The changes in the order of the bells' sounding
that constitute a method are governed by four rules and one ideal. The
rules are that:
The ideal is that the spacing should be exactly equal between every pair of bells in each row.
Other Noteworthy Local Bells:
there are no other bells hung for change ringing on the Canadian prairies
(yet!), there are other bells of various kinds. Many churches have old
train or steamship bells in their towers or elsewhere, but occasionally
interesting bells surface. St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral on 18th
Avenue and First Street South West has four French bells from the 19th
century in the tower, a gift of then Senator Patrick Burns. The three
smaller ones are hung with small wheels and cart-ropes, and the largest
bell is electrically swung and controlled by an automatic mechanism. The
bells still retain their original gargoyle-decorated canons and are in
separate frames built by an American clock-maker. Central United Church
on First Street and Seventh Ave. SW has a large chime of tubular bells
which has recently been refurbished. They are played electrically from
the organ console and ring the quarters and the hours.
Local Ringing Methods and Times
Church's ringers are mostly locally trained although there are some members
of the band who learned to ring in England. Methods commonly rung include
Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles, Bob Minor, and Stedman Doubles. Christ
Church's bells are rung every Sunday from 9:45am -10:30am and by request
for weddings and funerals. Practice nights are Fridays at 6.30pm - 8.00pm
and by request. Calgary winters can be extremely cold and ringing is cancelled
if the temperature falls below -20 Celsius, except for special
More Information about Change Ringing
The North American Guild of Change Ringers was formed in 1972 as a means of linking change ringers to each other and supporting the growth of change ringing in North America. For more information on ringing, please speak to any member of our local guild, or see the North American Guild of Change Ringer's Home Page.
Ruth Lund, Bell Tower Captain