The bells of hell go ting-a-ling….


…..for you but not for me. (Airman’s song from WW1). So the Citadel are at it again. Now they don’t want us to have our church bells. It seems that whenever someone moves in to one of the lovely houses in this attractive area of our ancient town they seem to believe that they have the right to dictate to the rest of us what will or will not happen. Perhaps it is time to remind them that EF Benson’s Lucia was fiction and what she might have got away with in his books, does not work in real life!

It seems that all the rest of us (plebs that we clearly are, in the eyes of the Citadel) now should creep around town – and especially in the rarefied air of the cobbled streets – without making a sound lest we disturb the peace of the inhabitants. But this is not the first time, for they have form: by chance, in this issue of Rye News there is a short article complaining of the noise a street cleaning machine makes at 7am a couple of times a week. So now, not only are we not allowed our Church bells but our streets have to be left dirty as well so that their beauty sleep should not occasionally be disturbed.

A few years ago there was a plan put forward to build a marina roughly halfway between the Town and Rye Harbour. The scheme was dropped, partly because of a number of objections – and where did some of these come from? The Citadel of course. Church Square and Watchbell Street complained that the possible noise of halyards (ropes for hoisting sails) slapping against masts would be annoying. Objections were also made to the proposal of a bypass south of Rye on the basis it would spoil their view.

If these people really want to live in the past, perhaps, as one town councillor has suggested, they would like to go back to the days when Church Square was the red light area – so long as the ladies of the night carried on their trade quietly, of course.

For over 900 years the bells have rung from St Mary’s and for all of that time the ringers have practised their art. A couple of widely-circulated emails – one from a ringer and one from the Mayor himself, sum up, I expect, the feelings of many:

“As a Bellringer (although I do not attend on Thursdays anymore but ring regularly on Sundays and for weddings and funerals) my comment would be:

There is a reason it is called church square, because it has a church in it, and they invariably have bells in. Bell ringing is an ancient English tradition, and would be a great shame if it declined. Persons buying properties in ‘church square’ will be aware of the environs they are buying into.

There are hundreds of methods/patterns in which bells are rung, many of which are highly complicated. These have to be learnt from memory and this takes time.

In order for ringing to continue as a traditional English practice, we need new comers, and young and old are joining up to learn. It can be very daunting knowing a ton of metal is swinging about above you & again, to build confidence takes time.

We are regularly requested to ring at weddings & funerals, as well as for civic & Royal occasions. In order for this to be the best it can, ringing has to be practised – only about 80 minutes a week.

We as ringers have never, as far as I am aware, received any complaints from residents or commercial businesses (who benefit from weddings in the town).

Should the correspondent wish to make himself known I’d be happy to tell him the above.

All the best

And from the Mayor:

“The bitter-sweet sound of just one bell or the majesty of a whole peal, has become part of the English heritage and much of the country’s history can be traced through the history of its bells.

They call us to wake, to pray, to work, to arms, to feast and, in times of crisis, to come together. Above all, bells are the sound of freedom and peace as in World War II they hung silently until the day they could ring in the peace.

I agree with it whole heartedly and feel ashamed that such people live in our town. Not only our town but one of the most historic parts in the centre.
If there was no church there and perhaps a prefabricated supermarket or Macdonalds restaurant I wonder how many of them would still be so keen to live there??


photo: library

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  1. I lived in the Gungarden for ten years, until 2015. Hearing the bells ringing on Thursday evenings was a joy. I considered myself most fortunate to live within the sound of church bells .

    Pamela Pettigrew

  2. Although not a Church goer, I look forward to Thursday evenings throughout the year. Bell practice is a highlight of my week.
    But maybe I’m a bit odd as I love the sound of Seagulls in the mornings!
    These are two reasons why I moved to Rye and chose to live within sound distance of the Church and the sea.
    Check out Leslie Phillips’ view on the matter in hand:

  3. We live as close as anyone to the church but do not find the bells disturbing or consider them ‘noise pollution’ — quite the contrary. I am sympathetic with anyone who does find them a problem but it is not fair (or correct) for the anonymous complainer to claim he/she is speaking for ‘the residents of Rye’!

  4. As a relative newcomer to Church Square I object to John Minter’s sweeping generalisations about residents of the citadel. We love the sound of church bells – they are part of our culture and greatly enhance the acoustics of Rye. Please don’t assume that because one is fortunate enough to live in this beautiful square that one shares the tendency to jump to unfounded stereotyping of its residents. As it’s an anonymous letter we cannot presume its origins even if they purport to be residents of Church Square.

  5. I find it hard to believe that Rebekah and Jonathan would offer such biased and unjustified remarks about the one portion of the people they are elected to serve. They do not even know that the comments were written by anyone in the Citadel. I would suggest that they take the advice of there Town Clerk and not comment on anonymous communications. If they must pronounce then do it with balance. There are very innovative people who live in the Citadel as in all parts of Rye who are dedicated to the success of our town so do not get partisan about one part or another. You need the energy of all to support you if you are to succeed as our elected representatives.

  6. Maybe the anonymous complainer would like to come forward and defend themselves ??

    As a resident of Rye I love to hear the Bells ring. The practice on a Thursday evenings walking the dog round Camber and on Sunday hanging my washing out. ….. Keep the Bells ringing loudly and proudly.

  7. On the night of the bell ringing (the practice which I understand needs to happen as it can’t be an easy task) I was in the Mermaid having a drink with a friend. Both of us independently remarked hearing the bells (faintly) and agreed that it was a lovely sound in the background.

    In terms of residents of church square, I do agree with Mike Eve and Linda Harland. It is not fair to generalise about people living there and tarnish everyone with the same brush, especially if a complaint came from an anonymous individual who may not even live there. Also, knowing quite a few people in that area (some are friends, some are acquaintances) though living on the edge of Rye, I know that many have given their time and expertise to the town to make it a more lively place to live in and visit.

    Heidi Foster

  8. I would like to add my support to all those who believe the bell ringing is part of living and Rye, and those who move to an address such as Church Square, might have considered that a church may be nearby. I wondered, like Anthony Kimber, if it was really sent in on April 1st. Anonymous better move soon and maybe we can ask the bell ringers to practice more often until they do!


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