The bells of St Peters

listen to the Goldhanger bells...

Rounds on 5 bells:


Call changes on 6 bells:


Plain Bob Doubles on 6 bells:


Half muffled bells 6 bells:


A complex method on 8 bells:


The Ellacombe Chimes:



Contents of this page:

o     History of the tower and bells

o     The Ellacombe Chimes

o     Improving the sound of the bells




History of the tower and bells



The tower was added at the west end of the existing nave, probably initially as a watch tower containing one bell.


An inventory of "Church Goods" was made in this year The following is included...

iiij greate bells hanginge in the stepyll with lettell sauncfcus bell


The Church tower contained 4 bells. Two of the bells have the date of 1657 and are inscribed:


Miles Graye was a bell foundry in Colchester


Two of the bells in the tower are engraved with the date of 1781


The date recorded when the bells upgraded to a peal of 6


The Ellacombe Chimes have a manufacturer's plate with this date.


















A plaque in the bell tower of this date commemorates the first peal on six bells by the local ringers. They were each given a silver medallion by the Rector.

1910 - Peal plaque in bell tower.JPG




The bells were tolled many times during the Great War to mark the loss of young men from the village, including the loss of several bellringers. See. the . . Great-War


The Parish magazine reported . . .

The Church bells rang joyous peals for the return of thirty of our soldiers


The tenor bell was tolled during the dedication of the war memorial marking the loss of seventeen young men from the village.





A new steel frame was installed to replace the old oak frame and the bells were upgraded to a peal of eight. One of the bells came from the redundant Church of St Giles in Colchester. The funds needed to complete the work were collected over a period of five years, with regular house to house collections organised using a 'payment card'. The amount collected was entered onto the card so that a record of everyone's contribution was maintained.

Bell frame at foundry in 1951.JPG



Bell refurb











The 8cwt tenor bell was re-cast in this year and is inscribed and dedicated to the Revd Frederick Gardner who was Rector from 1893 -1936

The Tenor bell being lifted:


         Bell lifting





The Arthur Appleton Trophy is regularly awarded by the local branch of Essex Bellringing Association to the winning tower of the annual Striking Competition. It would have been made at some time after his death in 1971. Arthur was an accomplished Goldhanger ringer, well known in the district and an honorary member of the Essex Bellringing Association. The plaque in our tower dated 1910 has Arthur's name on it as one of the six rings who completed a peal of 5040 changes A medallion presented to Arthur by the Revd. Gardner is embedded within the trophy.

The trophy is still presented today to the winner tower of the striking competition organised annually by the Essex Bellringing Association.

Appleton trophy & Medallion.jpg




The Ernie Johnson Call Change trophy was constructed using oak from the old Goldhanger bell frame by Tollesbury tower Captain Bob Leavett to commemorated Ernie's life and achievements as a dedicated and well known Essex ringer.

The trophy is still presented today to the winner tower of the local call-change competition organised annually by the Essex Bellringing Association.

Johnson trophy sm.JPG


The one hundredth peal was rung at St Peters to mark Tower Captain Bernard Mann's 80th birthday, plus the 40 years since the upgrade to 8 bells and the 30 years Bernard had been the tower captain.


In January 2005 the bellringers organised a fund raising activity for those affected by the Indonesian Tsunami. Each afternoon the bells were rung or popular tunes played on the Ellacombe Chimes in response to requests from sponsors in the village. Over a two week period several hundred pounds were raised.


A radio programme entitled: Funeral of a Bellringer was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 which recalled the ringing life of the former Goldhanger Tower Captain, Bernard Mann. The programme has the voices of Rosemary Mann, Bernard's widow, and other relatives, together with former Tower Captains, Cyril Southgate (in his gentle, unique Suffolk/Essex burr), and the late Ken Perry. A three minute audio extract of the programme is at. . .

Funeral of a Bellringer


David Webb wrote a poem for a special bellringers' Church service...

Oh what are you ringing you Goldhanger ringers;

Is it to Matins you summon your friends;

Who'll call the change which will signal your ending,

Who'll grasp the sally as the tenor bell ends?

How greatly your voice can embellish a nuptial

With tintabulation from the treble you sing.

T'is no coincidence that the bride and her consort

Are each proudly shining their bright golden ring.

Or is it the cry of a baby new christened

Will call each of the ringers to loosen a rope

To ring the godparents and friends and relations

To the thrill and delight of Christ's message of Hope?

Only one pair of hands for the tolling bell is needed

To say fond farewell to a friend whom we love,

But imagine the tumult, of joy and of welcome,

Which peals out from the belfry in Heaven above.

'To God be the glory' is our constant injunction,

It's fixed in our hearts by the hymn that we sing

In nervous beginnings, in practised performance,

It is only to you Lord, in praise, that we ring.


A study of Improving the sound of the bells was undertaken to analyse the difference between the sound produced by some of the bells when full circle ringing compared with the sound produced by the same bells using Ellacombe chimes. The conclusion was that clapper buffers fitted in the past had made a significant improvement, but most had worn away and some new devices were fitted in their place.



As part of the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of Great War, the bells are being rung on the exact date of the deaths of the nineteen men who are named on the War Memorial.


The bells are regularly maintained and continue to be in good working order. They are frequently rung by visiting ringers from around the country, who frequently take advantage of the excellent meals and refreshments in The Chequers just next door.



Ellacombe Chimes

The Ellacombe Chimes is a device that enables one person to ring all the bells. The mechanism was invented by the Revd. H.T. Ellacombe in the Parish of Bitton, near Bath in the late 1800s. The device is in two parts, a wall-mounted rack in the ringing chamber with ropes that go up to the bell chamber, and counter-balanced under-hammers that strike the rim of each bell.

During full circle ringing, the under-hammers must be moved out of the path of the swinging bells. This is achieved by disconnecting, or loosening the ropes on the rack in the ringing chamber.

It has been said that Revd. Ellacombe devised the mechanism originally so that all bells could be rung without involving a band of unruly and drunken ringers! In St Peters tower however, several methods of ringing and musical styles have been devised. From hand written music scores preserved in the tower that date back to time when the bells and the chimes rack were upgraded to an octave of eight bell in the 1950s, we know that the chimes were used to play carols at Christmas and appropriate hymns during Lent.


An Ellacombe hammer is shown here

The Ellacombe Chimes in St Peter's Church is still used today which seems somewhat unusual. For example, during 2014 to 2018 the chimes are being used to play appropriate music to commemorate the 100th anniverary of the exact date of the death of each of the Goldhanger Great-War fallen. Go to the William Hume's 100th year aniversary page to hear a short audio recording.

More information about the Ellacombe Chimes, the history, how to set up and play it, examples of the sounds, etc. is at...

The Ellacombe Chimes.htm




Improving the sound of the bells

An investigation into the varying sounds produced by the bells at Goldhanger was been undertaken In 2008. The reasons for undertaking this were. . .

o     The Ellacombe Chimes produce a quite different sound from the full circle ringing. The chimes are quieter but have much longer ring decay times and are generally produce a less harsh sound.

o     When individual bells were being put up for full circle ringing the harshness was very noticeable as the bells came to rest in the up position.

o     In comparison with the sounds at other local towers, it was evident that some bells of a similar size produce quite different sounds - some harsher, some sounding more dead sounding.

o     The cumulative effect on the sound of all bells ringing together at full speed is less obvious, however when the bells are all being lowered together, the change in tone and duration of the collective ring when all the bells are partway down is very apparent and perhaps the best demonstration of the phenomena.

It is well known that during full circle ringing, and for a proportion of the bell wheel's 380 degree rotation, immediately after the clapper has struck the bell, the clapper rests in contact with the bell in the up position resulting in two effects:

The clapper momentarily chatters and some harshness is generated.

Due to this time energy is lost, resulting in a shorter ring decay and a more dead sounding bell.

However, at the beginning of the study it was not known why there was so much variation in the phenomena between the different bells in the same tower.

There were two approaches to the investigation: 1) a study the relationship between the clappers and bells, and experiments with methods of raising the clapper away from the bell surface. 2) consultations with experts and the study of relevant published material on the subject.

It was soon established that several methods of reducing clapper chatter have been proposed in the past, and one of the methods had in fact been implemented on some of the bells at Goldhanger, probably 50 years ago. A small soft metal pad, probably lead, was inserted near the worn striking areas on some clappers. These can be felt by hand, but are not visible when the bells are in the down position and the clappers are vertical.

However, the devices are worn and flattened and are only effective on one bell. This discovery meant that the problem has been recognised in the past and was significantly severe to justify a solution.


As replacing the worn parts would involve removing the clappers and possibly drilling out the old metal, this solution was not pursued. The alternative preferred was to devise a new method that could be easily fitted onto the clappers of the bells that now suffered the worst effects.

During initial tests it quickly became apparent that a small block of hard rubber strategically placed between the clapper and the bell provided an simple and effective solution, and subsequent trials have focused on ease of construction and fitting, and most importantly, the durability.

The audible benefit of the device is most noticeable when fitted to one side of a clapper only to provide a contrast to the sound coming from the opposite side of the same bell. When tested on the lighter bells however, the benefits appeared less pronounced. When all bells that suffer from pronounced chatter are fitted with the device the affect on the collective ring is significant and the consensus of the local lringers is that the devices should remain in place.

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