St Peter’s Church bellringers get ready to mark King’s coronation

St Peter's bellringers. Mary Bridges (pictured centre) is the longest serving member of the team

Like countless churches up and down the country, St Peter’s Church bells will be ringing to celebrate the Coronation on May 6.

However, for one St Peter’s Ringer, this will be a double celebration since she also rang for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June 1953.

Mary Bridges is the longest serving member of the St Peter’s team and now serves as the Tower Vice-Captain.

St Peter’s present tower was built in the 15th century at the northwest corner of the church, but nothing is known about the bells until the mid-18th century when the parish registers record that the bells were recast from 5 to 6 between 1754 and 1757.  A full history of the bells can be found on the church website.

Bells have been a part of St Peter’s Church for hundreds of years; and bellringers are a very enthusiastic bunch of people.  At St Peter’s, they pride themselves on being a welcoming, friendly group who are always happy to have new people come and learn.

It is a fun activity for all from ages 10-years to adult, all faiths and none.

A young Mary joining in the festivities of a Street Party held to mark the Coronation in 1953

Treasurer and PCC Chairman at St Peter’s Church, Robin Page, said: “We ring for services, weddings, funerals and special occasions.  Once you are able to control a bell and ring with others the world is your oyster!  You would be welcomed at most towers around the world.

“So, if anyone has ever wondered what it is all about, they would be most welcome at our practice night.  We run a practice for beginners on a Monday from 6.30- 7:15pm and the normal practice from 7:00 – 8:30 pm, the overlap gives a chance for everyone to meet each other.  We currently have a number of beginners whom we are hoping we can get ready to ring for the Coronation.

“Bellringers around the country are very good at supporting one another and helping people to learn new things. It is the type of activity where you continue to learn all the time, even the very experienced ringers.  It is an inexpensive pastime which can be enjoyed all year round and can take you to some amazing places, a wonderful way to make friends.

“It is a traditional skill for which you do not need to be strong or musical. In Thanet there are several bell towers – St Saviour’s Westgate, All Saints Birchington, St Lawrence in Thanet, St Nicholas at Wade, Monkton, Minster and St John’s Margate – and we all move around practices to help each other out, particularly as some towers do not have many ringers, or a very inexperienced band.

“Bell ringing, like some sports can become a bug, there are people who will regularly ring quarter peels most days of the week or even a full peel.  These are some of the challenges you meet along the way, some of us do not need much of an excuse to ring a quarter, which can take 45-50 mins of non-stop ringing.  A peel will take about 3 hours non-stop.

“Once a ringer is able to join the Canterbury District of the Kent Association of Change Ringers, there are monthly meetings which are held at different churches, where you get to ring and enjoy a famous ringers tea!  At this stage you can go anywhere in the country and ring.  Some ringers will organise their holiday around different bell towers!”