The bells, the bells …

There has been a church on the site of Hexham Abbey for more than 1,300 years, since Queen Etheldreda made a grant of lands to Wilfrid, Bishop of York c.674. Beneath the floor of the nave, the crypt of Wilfrid’s Saxon church is still intact.  A steep stair leads down into a dimly lit chamber where inscriptions show that many of the stones used to build the crypt came from the old Roman fort at Corbridge, 3 miles to the east.

Look up, rather than down, and there is a series of galleried walkways around the south and east transepts. Those on the south are accessed by a small wooden door to the right of the broad gallery at the top of the night stairs, a flight of 35 stone steps rising from the south transept.  Through the door, a very narrow steep spiral staircase leads to the first gallery – heading along the gallery another set of spiral steps leads to the ringing chamber.  Above that, yet more narrow steps lead to the bell chamber.  This is the domain of the Hexham Abbey Guild of Bell Ringers.

The Ringing Chamber, Hexham Abbey

John the bellringer explaining the mechanics of the Hexham bells.

The T Lester 1742 D# Bell mid-ring – the oldest of the ten bells.

The view from the southern gallery

The lack of head height and the narrow stairs confirms what we all know – that we are significantly bigger than our ancestors, some more than others.  And, this provides the perfect excuse to include my favourite clip from In Bruges 🙂 :



  1. J.D. Riso · December 11

    Hahaha. That movie clip. So typical. Great photos, as usual. I bet those guys take pride in their work.

    • northumbrianlight · December 11

      They do – real enthusiasts and very capable. Always a joy to have things explained by people who take pride in what they do.

  2. sustainabilitea · December 11

    I can see from your gallery shot that the noise of the bells affected your balance, Robin. 🙂 Happy Monday!


    • northumbrianlight · December 11

      And my hearing, Pardon? 🙂 Trouble is you can’t cover your ears and take photos at the same time. Happy Monday too!

  3. restlessjo · December 11

    What a treat 🙂 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · December 12

      It was Jo – I have asked for access to the roof before and been denied but this is a good second best. The ladders to the top look quite challenging so I can understand their reluctance 😦

  4. Maureen Sudlow · December 11

    I’ve been thinking about bells a lot lately – when I was a child the church bells rang out every Sunday morning, calling the faithful to Church. Now we never hear them. Something has been lost…

    • northumbrianlight · December 12

      Indeed it has – the Abbey bells ring regularly but unfortunately we live just too far away to hear them.

  5. Su Leslie · December 12

    Fab photos — especially the shot from the gallery. I’m, er, not good with heights, so am full of admiration. Love ‘In Bruges’ too, so thanks for the clip 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · December 13

      Thanks Su – I am generally ok with heights but the large ‘trap door’ in the floor of the Ringing Chamber had me spooked – there is nothing between it and the Abbey floor below, this being the way bells are lifted into and out of the bell tower. I preferred not to stand on it or even near it 😉

      • Su Leslie · December 13

        🙂 I’m feeling queasy just thinking about it.

  6. Sartenada · January 1

    In Finland we have bells also and in one place – many.

    Bronze bells in summer.

    Happy New Year 2018.

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