Tag Archives: Charmborough ring

Ringing the changes at St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey

St Mary Magdalen before 1828

St Mary Magdalen before 1828 (above) and today (below).

St Mary Magdalen today

This Saturday, 20th September, the sound of Church bells ringing the changes will be heard again for the first time in over 180 years at St Mary Magdalen Church at the corner of Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street in Bermondsey. Bellringers from the daughter church of St James’ will erect a mobile belfry in the churchyard at St Mary Magdalen as part of the Bermondsey Street Festival, between 12.00 and 4.00pm.

Parts of the tower at St Mary Magdalen date back to 1290, and there are records of 14 peals being rung on the bells hung in the tower. The first was 10,080 changes of Plain Bob Major rung by the College Youths on 18th May 1728. This was one of the very earliest peals rung anywhere.  The first ever peal was rung in Norwich less than 10 years before.

Whilst the bells at St Mary Magdalen played an important role in the development of change-ringing, in 1828 the top half of the tower at St Mary Magdalen was demolished and its bells were melted down.

On Saturday the band from St James’ will be bringing the Charmborough Ring, a mobile bell tower for the day and demonstrating the art of ringing the changes. There will also be the opportunity for members of the public to have a go.

St James has a peal of eight bells and an active team of ringers, although their leader Roger Booth say that they could always do with a few more ringers. The team also mans the ropes at nearby St Mary’s Church in Rotherhithe and is offering would be ringers an intensive series of lessons so that people could learn the basics in a week, and then join in with the rest of the team at their regular weekly practice sessions at St James’ at 7.30pm on Tuesday evenings.

Spring clean at Isle of Dogs

Thanks to a lot of hard work on Saturday morning, particularly from Mickey Etches, we have managed to clear a bag full of dust and other debris from the base of the spire, the belfry and the clock-room. Nuts and bolts have been tightened and our CCTV camera above the bells is working again, as is the doorbell. This means that we can leave the door locked, and when you come to Christchurch you can ring the doorbell and we will be able to come down and let you in. The door is the main South door immediately underneath the tower, off Glenaffric Avenue, and the bell push is on the right hand side.

We have now started practicing at Christchurch on Wednesday evenings from 7.00 till 9.00, although at the moment we are mainly teaching people to handle a bell on their own. There will be a break on 23rd and 30th July for the summer holidays, but otherwise we should be there most weeks. Anyone who wants to learn to handle is welcome.

We also plan to teach bell handling on other evenings, by appointment. As the band grows we will also arrange some Saturday morning training sessions at Christchurch, probably from mid-August onwards, to get everyone ringing rounds, hopefully by mid September. We can then start thinking about ringing the bells on Sundays.

On Wednesday evenings there is usually a Mass between 7.15 and 8.00pm at Christchurch, and we have installed an electronic simulator system, the same as the one at Rotherhithe, which means that we can ring the bells without making a noise outside. So even if you cannot hear anything, please ring the doorbell and come up.

The advantage of Wednesdays is that the Meridian Ringers practice between 8.00 and 9.30pm at Greenwich, which is only 15 minutes walk away through the foot tunnel, or one stop on the DLR. Therefore if we meet short, or our new ringers want some extra practice, we can always go across the river.

I am currently trying to find enough people to help use a Mobile Belfry for the Christchurch Fete on Sunday 13th July. If you have not spoken to me about this, and would like to help, and perhaps try to recruit a few more ringers, please get in touch. You can see what the belfry looks like on this video:

and how it erected on this one:

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