Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009
New bells at St Laurence's ring the changes in Ludlow
Shaun Ward, Clerk of Works at St Laurence's Church in Ludlow
Mr Ward says the church tower sways when all the bells are ringing

If you live in Ludlow, or regularly visit the town you might have noticed a big change in the audio landscape.

The bells of St Laurence's Church have been chiming for the people of Ludlow since the early 17th Century.

You can tell what day of the week it is by the tunes the bells play, and now £76,000 has been spent retuning them and installing three new bells.

Shaun Ward, clerk of works at St Laurence's said musically the bells have improved almost immeasurably.

Listen to the bells

Watch the bells in action on the YouTube website.

The bells at St Laurence's have contributed significantly to the atmosphere of Ludlow for centuries.

They are mentioned in A E Housman's book, A Shropshire Lad, published in 1896:

Oh, come you home of Sunday
When Ludlow streets are still
And Ludlow bells are calling
To farm and lane and mill,

Or come you home of Monday
When Ludlow market hums
And Ludlow chimes are playing
"The conquering hero comes"

Skyscraper technology

The bells are rung in two distinct ways: by the bell ringers on Sundays and practice evenings; and by the church clock which is controlled electronically and chimes tunes four times a day.

When the bell ringers are put through their paces the bells turn full circle and the sound carries into the distant countryside.

Mr Ward said when they are all ringing there is about 30 tonnes of outward pressure on the church tower.

"The tower does sway... but it's perfectly safe." he explained.

He added: "It's the same technology as a skyscraper - if it didn't move it would fall over."

When the clock strikes, the stationary bells are struck by hammers, giving the bells a quaint, quieter sound.

The clock chimes a different tune for each day of the week and it plays the tunes at 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 8pm.

Mr Ward said: "The clock tells people to go to work, have their lunch, have a break, go home and go to bed."

The current carillon tunes were installed in the mid 19th Century and include popular songs of the day, as well as some tunes, including Hanover, which may have been chiming in the town since the 18th Century.

Wednesday's chime is a metrical psalm which is a psalm, arranged into verses so it can be sung to a hymn tune.

The words to Thursday's folk song are attributed to John Gay in the 18th Century:

My lodging it is on the cold ground,
And very hard is my fare,
But that which troubles me most is
The unkindness of my dear.

The words to Friday's song begin:

Life let us cherish while yet the taper glows,
And the fresh floweret pluck ere it close.

Hanover is the tune used for the hymn Oh Worship the King, which Christians will find an appropriate choice for the chimes on Sunday.

It took six years of planning and fundraising before the bells could be refurbished and augmented.

The new bells were cast at the world famous Whitechapel foundry in London.

The biggest bell at St Laurence's was an old tenor bell which weighed over a tonne (21cwt).

Sadly it cracked when it was only 10 years old and despite being mended, it never sounded the same.

It was broken up and the metal was used in the three new bells at St Laurence's.

Ludlow carols with BBC Shropshire
03 Nov 09 |  TV & Radio

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