Bells and bell ringing

Church bells are the most historic sound many of us ever hear.

We can help you make sure your church bells keep ringing for a long time into the future.

Church bells being run G Pledger

Looking after your bells

Looking after your bells and bell frames is a specialist job. You should hire an experienced bell hanger or founder.

If you are planning to do work on the bells, make sure your specialist follows the Code of Practice. You are more likely to get your faculty and any funding if they do.

The code helps keep bells in use in a way that preserves their historic importance. And it helps you understand the bells that you have and think about what to do with them.

If you think your church’s bells are affecting the structure of the tower, consult a professional bell hanger or structural engineer for advice. And don’t forget to tell your architect.

What permissions do you need?

If you are planning to do any work to your bells, including maintenance, you will need to apply for permission.

In most cases, you will need a faculty.

But some works to bells are on List A or List B. For these, you will either need no permission or the written consent of your archdeacon. Talk to your diocese for advice.

What does “fit condition to be rung” mean?
List A
List B

Listed bells and bell frames

Bells and bell frames we think are worth preserving are often called listed.

The Church Buildings Council uses these criteria to decide if a bell or frame should be listed.

Bells:

  • All bells older than 1600
  • Good quality bells from 1600 to 1750
  • Bells with special decoration
  • Rare bells
  • Bells in a group of 4 or more
  • Outstanding quality bells from 1750 to 1850
  • Significant examples of technical innovation after 1851

Bell frames:

  • Before 1599; still has a lot of original work
  • Post 1600; good quality and structurally complete
  • Post 1600; where the date and maker is known
  • Post 1600; frame shows technical innovation
  • Post 1600; frame shows unusual features

If you think a bell or frame should be listed, please contact our general enquiries.

Assess the significance and record your bell frames

Before doing any work to your bells or bell frames, you have to:

Hire a specialist to help you find out if they are of high historic interest or of little interest.

Together, you can:

Conduct an appraisal
Assess their significance
Choose the right level of recording
Gather evidence
Write a final report

Noise complaints and the law

You should be aware of your rights and responsibilities under the law in case someone complains about the ringing of your church’s bells or clock bell.

Read the advice of the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod

Ecclesiastical law
Common law
The Environmental Protection Act 1990

Who can take action?

Anyone whose enjoyment of their property is being affected.

The courts will consider:

  • How close the property is to the church
  • And if the person just recently moved into the area knowing there was a church nearby

How to avoid complaints

  1. Ring regularly at known times
  2. Fix a pattern for additional ringing (e.g. weddings, visitors, meetings, etc.)
  3. Be considerate of your neighbours
  4. Publicise special ringing events
  5. Maintain good striking
  6. Hold open days to make people aware of ringing and the ringers
  7. Be reasonable

Dealing with complaints

If someone makes a complaint:

1. Respond politely and quickly

  • Be reasonable and try to reach a friendly solution from the start
  • Be prepared to change your ringing pattern to reach a compromise
  • Discuss the problem face to face and invite the person to watch the ringing and meet the ringers
  • Explain why and when the bells are usually rung. And for how long
  • Make sure the clergy, wardens and ringers all work together
  • Appoint one spokesperson to avoid confusion
  • Take the environmental health officer seriously

2. Keep a written record of complaints and any action taken

3. Seek experienced help

Advice for closing churches

If your church is closing, you may need to apply for permission to remove and store the bells. Some organisations will even help you find them a new home.

You should try and preserve them whenever possible and not sell them as scrap except as a last resort.

Find out more about furnishings no longer needed for worship

Also of interest

Apply for a grant

Let us help you restore your historic bells

Learn more about your historic bells

Search for your church in our heritage database

Become a bell ringer

Ask your local church or the Central Council of Church Bell Ringer

Learn about the rings of bells

Search the Dove’s guide for church bell ringers