The Belfry at Hawkshead Parish Church contains a ring of 8 bells ranging from a 159 kg treble to a 394 kg tenor. The bells are normally rung on Sundays for Morning Service from 9 to 9 30 a.m. and for Evensong from 5.30 to 6 p.m; ringing practice is at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Visiting ringers are always extremely welcome: to check times please telephone John Gunner on 015394 36209.
Bellringing has a long tradition in Hawkshead. Eighteenth century records show that the church possessed a “great bell” and two smaller bells. In 1765, two of these were melted down by James Harrison of Barrow, Lincolnshire who provided a peal of six new bells at a cost of £228. The fifth bell subsequently cracked and was recast in 1810.
In 1958, John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough cast the two further bells, No. 1 (treble) and No. 2 which brought the number up to 8. The new bells were installed in conjunction with a complete re-hanging of all the bells. The 1765 oak frame had become unsafe and was replaced by a steel and cast iron frame: all the bells were hung on new bearings. The new treble was a gift of Col G O Sandys of Graythwaite in memory of his parents and his twin brother who was killed in World War I; the second bell was funded by public subscription.
The rededication service on Michaelmas Day 1958 marked the first ringing of the re-hung and augmented bells. On 22 November, a Peal of Bob Major consisting of 5,056 changes was rung in 2 hours and 50 minutes in thanksgiving for the restoration and the new bells. The Vicar - the Rev Robert Lindsay - rang the Treble. The 50th anniversary was marked by special prayers and hymns on the Sunday nearest to Michaelmas Day in 2008.
In 1985 an upper floor and staircase were built for the ringers; the choir use the ground floor as a vestry. Because the heavy bells could be a danger if interfered with, the belfry is kept locked.
The inscriptions on the six bells from 1765 make up four rhyming couplets.
The (old) treble starts: Awake, awake, the day is restored,
Awake, arise, to praise the Lord,
Reguard*, look to, the peal I lead
The second continues: We to the first must take good heed
The third observes: In the third place I take my swing
And the fourth adds: I mind the third when we do ring
The fifth says: In the fifth place I give my sound
And the sixth ends with: I close the peal, ring the bells round.
*Spelling may not have been the Harrison Foundry’s greatest strength!