New bell ringing system chimes out from Southwick Church thanks to generous donation from benefactor

A GENEROUS donation of a new bell ringing system has been presented to Southwick Church in remembrance of a woman who married there in the 1970s.

Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 11:40 am

The new bell system has now been installed after it was gifted to the church by Glenn Keiler, an American tourist.

While a church has occupied the site at Southwick since about 900 AD, the present church was built in the early part of the 12th century.

It has been added to or rebuilt at least three times, with the tower being constructed in the 14th century.

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A new bell ringing system has recently been installed at Southwick Church thanks to a donation from an American man who was married there in the 1970s. Rev Simon Brocklehurst with the bells. Picture: Sam Stephenson.

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The church initially housed four bells in a wooden frame. In 1981, these were lowered and a steel frame housing six bells - one dating back to the 1600s - was installed.

This new frame enabled the bells to be rung full circle for the first time in over 100 years, and the bells were rung traditionally by a team of six ringers on occasions.

Whilst there is an active tower captain and a band of ringers, it has not been possible to ring the bells by swinging them in the traditional manner as often the church would like.

The bells in the church. Picture: Sam Stephenson.

The vicar, the Reverend Simon Brocklehurst, knew of an electronic system in which the bells could be chimed by mechanical hammers - although this would cost several thousand pounds.

However, Mr Keiler - who married his recently departed wife Miriam at Southwick Church in the 1970s - decided to make a gift to the church in thanksgiving for her life.

His generous donation enabled the installation to go ahead, and the work was completed earlier this month.

Rev Simon Brocklehurst at the church. Picture: Sam Stephenson.

Rev Simon Brocklehurst is now able to set off a full peal of ringing bells from the comfort of his study with only a key fob.

He said: ‘Whilst our priority is to ring the bells traditionally with a team of six ringers, the new system enables us to ring the bells at will on other occasions to mark occasions of national significance, as well as on Sundays, at weddings and on many other occasions.

‘The joyful noise of the bells serves the community and its visitors well in reminding us all of the significant role of the church as a place of worship, refuge, stability and continuity in our troubled and changing world.’