The Bells and Ringers of Cholsey Church

A thousand years of history

Church bells stir emotions.  A glorious peal of bells at a wedding awakes feelings of joy, while the slow tolling of a heavy bell speaks of sadness and death.  Such sounds have echoed across the fields around Cholsey, a typical English village near Oxford, for a thousand years.

In the monastery established in Cholsey before the Norman Conquest, a bell would have sounded to call the monks to the divine offices.  In medieval Cholsey the bells were believed to possess magical powers, able to dispel storms and drive away evil spirits.  They signalled warnings, festivals, marriages, spiritual and other events, while the death knell sounded for those no longer for this world.

Across the millennium, bell technology and the skill of the ringers developed.  For over 300 years Cholsey’s church tower has been equipped for change ringing, allowing a multitude of different melodies to be played upon a ring of 5, 6 and now 8 bells.

Based on extensive new research, the book explores this interesting tradition which has been interwoven in the life of our village for a thousand years, and reveals some of the fascinating characters who have been pulling those bell ropes.  Written for both experienced ringers and those who know nothing of the craft, the 78-page book follows the development of ringing from a monastic community in Anglo-Saxon times to the thriving activity of today.