St James Basil Church Tower

Bell Ringing at J’s and B’s

The chime at St. James’ and St. Basil’s Church is very remarkable in several respects:

  1. It includes 8 bells hung for ringing, but the dead-hung bells outnumber the swinging bells.
  1. The chime is played from a baton keyboard in the ringing room, with transmission disconnects for the ringing bells at the keyboard.  (Most places in the UK where bells serve a double duty use an Ellacombe rack, or some other variation of a taut-rope chiming rack.)
  1. The bells include the lowest semitone (the largest of the fixed bells), which is relatively expensive but little used, and therefore is commonly missing from carillons, even quite large ones.  (Of the 16 traditional carillons in the British Isles, only three (including ours) are known to include that semitone.)
  1. There is a practice keyboard — quite common for carillons, but exceedingly rare for chimes

In summary, St. James’ and St. Basil’s have a remarkable chime thanks to the generosity of Sir James Knott. Ref. Carl Scott Zimmerman, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.

Reconnection of the Clock Chime and Carilion Mechanism, May 2020.

As our Bell Ringers cannot ring at the moment (due to coronavirus restrictions), the bells have been almost silent for some weeks. Time has been taken to reconnect the clock chime and Carilion mechanism, so that we can now ring all 17 once again. The video below features the 9am chime, filmed from within the Bell Tower at St. James’ and St. Basil’s Church Fenham, Newcastle. It’s one of our early attempts at chiming a tune, followed by the Angelus! Sorry for the occasional timing issues and wrong notes! (May 2020)

Audio Recording of Bells

The Dedication of the Bells at St. James’ and St. Basil’s Church Fenham

Bells St James and St Basils

There is a ring of 8 bells and also 9 chiming bells, to allow for tune ringing on 17 bells. All were cast by Mears and Stainbank in 1930. They are a fine ring. All were cast with flat heads. The chiming bells are hung above the ring.

There is a practice clavier in the ringing chamber.

Bells practice clavier Js and Bs

The bells were not dedicated until June 6th 1931, a fact published in “The Ringing World” of May 29th. The dedication was reported in the edition of July 3rd 1931:


On Saturday, June 6th, the recently built Church of SS. James and Basil, Fenham, Newcastle, was dedicated by the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Hilbrough. Unfortunately, the inclement weather put a stop to the grand civic and clerical procession arranged to precede the ceremony, but the Bishop dedicated the tower, bells and clock from the outside in a downpour. The church was packed to overflowing as the new bells struck out in rounds while the Bishop and the procession of clergy, etc., moved round to the west porch to demand admittance. The bells are a very fine, melodious peal of eight, with tenor 14cwt. in F, hung for ringing, with nine other smaller bells fixed to act as a carillon of seventeen bells, complete with clavier. The lightest bell weighs only 2 cwt. 14 lb., and the tenor is inscribed, 

‘ We ring in memory of James and Basil Knott.’ 

Messrs. Mears and Stainbank, of the Whitchapel Foundry, have almost excelled themselves in producing a thoroughly tuneful peal with workmanlike frames for the ring of eight, the carillon bells having been arranged so that they are heard to the best advantage. On June 6tn, 1931. the bells were dedicated by the Vicar, the Rev. S. Redman. Unfortunately Mr. Redman was not very enthusiastic about ringing


To find out more about Bell RInging in the North East of England, have a look at the webpage of the Durham and Newcastle Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers.


Recording of BellsA Church near you J’s and B’s Facilities Music at St. James’ and St. Basil’s Fenham, Newcastle