St Mary’s massive tower (actually surmounted by a short spire which is not visible
from many aspects) contains a ring of 8 bells originally cast in 1818 by what is now the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. They are housed in an oak frame and are rung from the
first floor level of the tower.
The church clock, made in 1820 by Thwaites and Reed, is in an intermediate floor, above
the ringing room and below the bells. It displays the time on a single face on the
East side of the tower, and strikes the hours on the tenor (largest) bell.
The bells are rung twice on Sundays, between 09.15 & 09.40 for the Parish Eucharist and again from 18.00 to 18.25 for Evensong, and also for the weekly practice
on Tuesdays (19.30 – 21.00). Visitors are always welcome on any of these occasions.
In 1928 three of the bells (the 3rd, 5th & 7th ) were recast and all were re-tuned, again
by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. At the same time the original plain bearings were replaced by ball races and a number of tie bolts added in an attempt to stiffen up the frame. In 1986 the 4th bell broke away from its headstock and was recast, again by Whitechapel.
In 1994 the bells were given an overhaul in which the bearings were replaced and efforts made to reduce the amount of odd-struckness. This was partially successful, but an unfortunate feature of the frame design means that the handling of the 5th bell tends to be unpredictable, and the amount of odd-struckness is still enough to make things difficult for inexperienced ringers. Expert opinion on the condition of the bells is presently being sought.
If you would like to try your hand at ringing please contact our Tower Captain, via the Parish Office. You would be very welcome. For more information about bell ringing in Eastbourne visit http://www.eastbourneringers.org.uk