Tower Bells and Change Ringers

Church bells are a unique form of outreach, announcing a joyous, buoyant, free but ordered life in the church, beckoning gracefully but not stridently to all, and falling with particular effect on the ears of those who are prepared to hear.

The tower of St. Martin’s is notable for having two sets of bells: a nine-note chime dating back to 1889, and a 1980 ring of eight bells hung for English change ringing.

The Chime
The 1889 chime was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, bearing the name “Mears and Stainbank”.  This massive chime is showing its age, but continues to be in working order.  It is played by pulling on wires which operate large hammers that strike the bells.

The nine-note chime plays a diatonic octave, and includes a raised forth, making it suitable for playing simple hymntunes.

The Ring of Eight Bells

St. Martin’s eight free-swinging bells were made possible by the gifts of many, both within and beyond the parish.  They were cast in 1979, also at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and dedicated at the church on June 8th, 1980, by Bishop Lyman Ogilby.  The bells comprise an octave in the key of D.  The tenor bell weighs 512 pounds and the treble 186 pounds.  They are dedicated to holy people of the British Isles:

Treble + Dunstan + (patron saint of bellringers)
2       + Lady Julian + (of Norwich)
3       + Margaret + (of Scotland)
4       + Nicholas + (of Little Gidding)
5       + David + (missionary to Wales)
6       + Patrick + (missionary to Ireland)
7       + Augustine + (missionary to England)
Tenor + Columba + (missionary to Scotland)

The bells are rung by the Philadelphia Guild of Change Ringers.  For information on joining the PGCR, please contact Bruce Butler at 215-765-8736.

There are about 5,500 sets of tower bells hung for change ringing in the UK, and only about 130 in the rest of the world.  Forty-eight of them are in the US, and one of these is at St. Martin’s.  A change ringing bell is mounted on an axle and fitted with a wheel so that it can be rotated full circle with each pull of the bell rope.  These free-swinging bells are rung to “changes” rather than to tunes.  Each line is known as a change, because in every line the bells are run in a different order.  The rhythm is constant and each bells sounds once in each change.  The result is an ever-changing cascade of sound.

Click here to hear St. Martin’s change-ringing bells.

Click here to see a video of the bell ringers at work.

Regular Sunday Schedule

8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
9:15 a.m. worship.together (Eucharist for preschool families)
9:15 a.m. Parish Forum & Christian Education (Kairos)
10:30 a.m. Choral Eucharist

Other Days

Morning prayer is offered at 7:30 a.m. weekdays, in the Mary Chapel.

Silent morning meditation is offered at 8:15 a.m. weekdays, in the Mary Chapel.

Mid-week Eucharist is offered at 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays, in the Mary Chapel.

Compline is offered at 7:00 p.m. on 2nd & 4th Wednesdays, in the Church.

Choral Evensong is offered at 5:00 p.m. on 1st Sundays, Oct.-June, in the Church.

We would love to have you join us.


This Episcopal church is located in the heart of the historic neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, five blocks west of Germantown Avenue at the corner of St. Martin’s Lane and West Willow Grove Avenue.

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