The Parts of a Church Bell

Model bell Named Parts

Here we have an image of a model bell, and an outline drawing naming the various parts of the mechanism. It is helpful for the ringer to know what is happening above their head when the rope is pulled, but not essential.

When not ringing, the bell is parked with its mouth upwards. Pulling the rope attached to the wheel rotates the bell firstly in one direction and then in the other.

The main parts of the mechanism of a bell hung for change ringing are ->

Tuning

Church tower bells hung for English Change Ringing are normally tuned to the notes of a major scale. In normal terminology, the Key note of the scale is the first note which is the lowest note. In change ringing the last bell ( The Tenor ) has the lowest note so we use this when we give the keynote for a ring of bells. The note of the first bell ( The Treble ) depends on the Key note and how many bells there are in the ring. The notes of the other bells are chosen so they form a major scale with the tenor.

On occasions it may be desirable to ring fewer bells than there are hung in the tower. This may be because there are insufficient ringers present or insufficient with the skill to ring a method using all the bells. The back bells in a twelve bell tower may be too heavy to manage easily. So it may be desirable to ring six or eight of the lighter bells.

In a six bell tower the semitone intervals between bells 1 to 6 are 2-2-1-2-2. In an eight bell tower the semitone intervals between bells 1 to 8 are 1-2-2-2-1-2-2. While it is common to ring the front six bells (1 to 6) for doubles and minor methods, using the back six bells (3 to 8) will sound much nicer as these bells have the correct semitone spacing for a major scale.

The semitone interval of bells 1 to 12 in a ring of twelve is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2 the eight bell semitone interval sequence 1-2-2-2-1-2-2 can be found on the back eight bells 5 to 12, but this requires the heavy tenor to be rung. The front eight of a twelve ( semitone intervals 2-1-2-2-1-2-2 ) have almost the correct semitone sequence and can be converted into a major key octave by replacing the second bell with an extra bell, a sharp second. This reduces the 1st to 2nd interval from 2 to 1 and increases 2nd to 3rd from 1 to 2 creating the desired sequence. Likewise bells 2 through to 9 can be made into a major key by replacing the sixth bell with a flat sixth bell.

Worcester Cathedral has three extra bells; a flat 4th, a flat 6th and a flat 8th; in addition to the diatonic twelve making a total of fifteen.

The photograph on the right illustrates how the semitone bells at Worcester Cathedral may be used to create varying keys with six, eight or ten bells.