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Churches to chime for Charter Day

Bell-ringers preparing for the big event on Sunday

Bell-ringers preparing for the big event on Sunday

Mike Dury and Charles Clapham doing a final maintenance check on Great George

Mike Dury and Charles Clapham doing a final maintenance check on Great George

Press release issued: 22 May 2009

At midday on Sunday 24 May, church bells across Bristol will ring to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the University, just as they did in May 1909 when King Edward VII granted the University its Royal Charter to grant degrees.

At midday on Sunday 24 May, church bells across Bristol will ring to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the University, just as they did in May 1909 when King Edward VII granted the University its Royal Charter to grant degrees.

Great George, the nine-and-a-half-ton bell in the tower of the Wills Memorial Building on Queen’s Road, will ring for two minutes at midday, then other churches in Bristol will join in with a quarter ‘peal’, which lasts approximately 45 minutes.

The participating churches are Bristol Cathedral, College Green; St Mary Magdalene, Stoke Bishop; St Mary Redcliffe, Redcliffe Way; St Matthew’s, Kingsdown; St Michael on the Mount, Without, St Michael's Hill; and St Stephen The Martyr, City Centre.

Some 50 campanologists (bell-ringers) will participate in the mass bell-ringing event and they include local bell-ringers, the President of the University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers, the Student Ringing Master, University of Bristol staff and students (past and present) and UWE students.

The event is part of the University’s ongoing programme of centenary celebrations and everyone is encouraged to come along and enjoy the free event on Sunday in the pleasant surroundings of the University’s new centenary garden next to the tower of the Wills Memorial Building or on College Green.

Professor David Clarke, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Centenary Celebrations Project Board, said:

‘We hope the ringing of the bells will serve as a reminder that although the University is now a global player, it remains proud to be part and parcel of the city from which it grew.’

Further information

  1. Great George was cast in 1924 and is reputed to be the finest E-flat bell in Europe and one of the deepest-toned bells in the world. It is the sixth-largest bell in England and is believed to be the largest that can be rung by hand. It is 6ft 9” high and 8ft 4” in diameter and can be heard 12 miles away. It is named after George V, George Oatley and George Wills. On special occasions, a team of bell-ringers swings the bell using its rope and mounted wheel, allowing the bell's clapper to strike the inside of the bell, producing a much louder and richer sound than when the clock hammer chimes, and causing the tower to vibrate. The bell was last rung for the Queen Mother's funeral.
  2. Change-ringing, or the art of ringing a set of bells in a series of mathematical patterns called changes, is believed to date back to the sixteenth century in England. It involves changing the order of the bells each time they sound. Each ringer memorises and follows a mathematical pattern.
  3. A ‘peal’ consists of approximately 5,000 changes, or permutations. When seven or more bells are rung, no repetition of any of the changes is allowed.
  4. The University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers (UBSCR) was founded in 1943. The 300+ membership is made up of current and past students and staff of the University of Bristol. Members of UBSCR can be found all over the world and several will be in the city this weekend for the centenary ringing.
Please contact Dara O'Hare for further information.