In Boston

Bells RingingThe oldest bells in North America are at The Old North Church, in Boston. They were hung in 1745. In the ringing room today hangs a copy of a 1750 charter in which the guild of ringers agreed upon a democratic organization of the tower. Paul Revere’s is the second signature on that contract. Perhaps his association with ringing is the reason he had a key to the tower that fateful night …

In England most bell towers are associated with a church. In Boston, the active ringing towers are at Christ Church (Old North) and the Church of the Advent. Experienced ringers are encouraged to help out with the service ringing. However the other ringing towers in New England are not associated with churches. There is a ring of ten at the Kent School in Connecticut and ten at the Groton School, northwest of Boston. Hingham also has a ring of ten. Smith College, in Northampton, has a ring of eight bells. A peal of eight — originally destined for the Boston Customs House Tower — now hangs at Perkins Institute for the Blind in Watertown , but is not currently a functional ringing tower.

The Boston towers ring for special events such as weddings and holidays. Since 1974, the tower bells of the Church of the Advent have been rung as a part of the orchestral performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on the Esplanade every Fourth of July.

The North American Guild of Change Ringers helps to draw together ringers from the widely spearated towers. Its annual meetings are regularly attended by ringers from British Columbia, Chicago, and the Eastern United States as well as by English visitors. The Guild publishes a quarterly newsletter, arranges ringing tours of England, provides a book service, and distributes information on change ringing in North America.

Further Reading:

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Art and Science of Change Ringing on Hand and Tower Bells by Wilfrid Wilson

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