St Clement’s Church, one of the oldest churches in Cambridge, gets new set of bells
A set of new, easy-to-ring bells have been installed at St Clement’s Church, one of the oldest churches in Cambridge.
It has long been the dream of Barry Johnson, a long-term member of the Society of Cambridge Youths – the second oldest bell ringing society at any church in the world – to have a new set of bells to use as a teaching centre.
There has been an ambitious programme of works to restore parts of the church, and lots of fundraising. The bells, which were cast in Italy and travelled to Somerset to be tuned and have all the fittings made, arrived at the church last Friday (May 13).
Soon after, they were hoisted up the tower and will be ringing after they have been dedicated by the bishop next month.
Barry, also a member of the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers (CUGCR) – the other bell ringing society in the area is the Ely Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers (EDA) – said: “It is exciting for me and for those of us involved.
“There has been a lot of interest from bellringers, and it’s attracting quite a lot of local interest, as people came past on Friday. There was quite a lot of positive reaction to seeing bells being trundled down the road!”
Barry, who first put forward the idea in 2013, notes that the intention is to use the bells as a teaching and recruiting centre for bell-ringing.
“At a national level it’s a bit of a new adventure,” he revealed. “It’s not been tried before so there’s definitely something that we’re hoping we can make of this. I’m hoping it’s more like a public attraction than a typical ring of bells that are hidden away up a church tower.
“People can come into the church and talk to someone about the ringing and maybe have a demonstration and have a lesson, so it’s a way of getting people involved – not just for this church but for the area.”
Barry has been a member of the Society of Cambridge Youths since 1974 and a member of the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers since 1969, and both organisations, along with the Ely bell-ringing association, worked on this project.
He said the bells should be easier to ring as they are lighter and more modern than most other church bells. “They’re meant to be ideal particularly for teaching children and young people,” the bell-ringer notes. “I’m very keen to increase the number of young people learning to ring – that’s a key driver for the project.”
Each of the bells has a donor and will be inscribed appropriately. This has raised about half of the £245,000 total needed. Donations have also been received and grants totalling more than £48,000 have been awarded from various bodies, including the EDA’s Bell Restoration Fund.
The organisers are still seeking donations to set up the recruiting and training operation and hopefully provide a surplus to keep the project going for the foreseeable future. To make a donation or a pledge, go to bells-of-stclements.scy.org.uk/index.php/volunteering/how-to-donate.
The Society of Cambridge Youths was founded in 1724 to promote and ring the bells of Great St Mary’s Church. There is no age limit to being a ‘youth’, and the members are very aware that they need to pass on their enthusiasm to future generations.