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“Church bells have been ringing in England for more than thirteen hundred years. The English ringing technique – in which a bell is swung through a full 180 degrees to allow it to sound mouth-up, projecting its voice upwards out of the tower – is quite unique; it can only be found in the British Isles, a few former colonies, and the area around Verona in Italy.
Traditionally, English bells are rung to summon the faithful to worship, to celebrate weddings and festivals, and to mark national thanksgivings. At funerals, and at times of disaster, the bells are sometimes muffled; during wartime, it’s agreed that church bells will not be rung except as a warning of invasion.
One cold January Saturday, I came across the oldest bell of this kind in the world, which dates back to the year 1260. It is a handsome treble bell, cast in solid bronze, its face mottled with the distinctive grey-green patina that has protected it from centuries of atmospheric corrosion.
Surprisingly enough, this bell is not kept in the British Museum, or in any museum for that matter. Instead, it still hangs in the belltower of the tiny Hampshire church for which it was originally intended more than seven hundred and fifty years ago . . .”