Bell ringing in and around Cambridge

Cambridge has been a notable centre of bell-ringing since the eighteenth century and probably earlier when the first steps in the development of change-ringing were made.  By 1770 Great St Mary’s, the University Church, had a ring of 12 bells implying the existence of a very experienced band for that time.  In the late 20th century Cambridge was notably successful in the National competition for ringing on 12 bells, and Great St Mary’s continues to be a centre of excellence comparable with any in the world.  The 18th Century bells were replaced by a superb new ring in 2009 to commemorate the University’s 800th anniversary, but some of the old bells were retained to continue to sound the Westminster Chimes (also known as the Cambridge Quarters) as they have since the famous clock chime was first composed.

Elsewhere in Cambridge there are other churches with bells.  St Bene’t’s and St Edward’s each have six bells which are rung regularly.  St Andrew the Great has eight bells which are mainly rung during university terms, and the Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs has a fine ring of eight heavy bells which are used for specially organised ringing.

In the outskirts and surrounding villages several more rings of bells are to be found.  Chesterton, Fen Ditton, Cherry Hinton, Great and Little Shelford, Trumpington, Barton and Histon are all within a few miles of the city centre.  The easiest way to find out whether a church has bells is to consult Dove’s Guide, available free of charge on the Internet, which lists all rings of bells suitable for change-ringing, often with links to further information.

Most of Cambridgeshire is in the Diocese of Ely, and the best source of information about bells and ringing in the area is the Ely Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers, which is a society that supports ringing throughout the diocese.  Students in Cambridge can contact the CUGCR which organises ringing and related (sociable) activities in term-time.