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Change Ringing

When you hear the eight bells of Mendenhall Center, a team of ringers is inside working together to make them sound. They each ring one bell, carefully timing when to pull their rope to weave the order of the bells into various permutations.

This style of bellringing continues over 400 years of tradition. Becoming proficient at the technique is a rewarding, lifelong activity that is open to all.

Practice Times

Regular practice times

Mondays and Thursdays: 5:30–7:30 p.m. (tower bells)
Saturdays: 1–3 p.m. (handbells)

On the second Saturday of each month, there are quarter peal attempts from 3–6 p.m.

Newcomers and visitors are very welcome at regular practices. We offer one-on-one bellringing instruction for anyone interested in learning.

Join Us!

Sarah Moriarty visiting the bells

The Smith College Bells

The Smith College bells were cast in bronze by Mears & Stainbank in 1967. They weigh between 300 and 980 pounds and are characterized by richness, dignity and mellowness of tone. The bells are hung in a ring of 8 near the top of Mendenhall Bell Tower in the belfry.

Change ringing is open to all who wish to ring the bells on campus and share their wonderful sounds on important Smith occasions. The band of ringers at Smith College includes Smith students, faculty, staff and alumnae, as well as members from the Five Colleges and the surrounding area.

Janet Carlile Harris also donated funds to strengthen the tower.




Donation information

Treble (A)

2-2-21 cwt
(301 lb.) 22.75″

In honor of Marjorie Resnikoff Botwinik ’37

Donated by Mr. Norman T. Botwinik in honor of his wife

Second (G#)

3-0-17 cwt
(353 lb.) 23.75″

I am Grace

Donated by Janet Carlile Harris

Third (F#)

3-1-16 cwt
(380 lb.) 25″

To the joy of music, mathematics and memory

Donated by Edward P. Hutchinson and his daughter Joan P. Hutchinson ’67 in honor of his wife and her mother, Louise Forbes Hutchinson ’36

Fourth (E)

4-0-16 cwt
(464 lb.) 27″

I am Equity

Donated by Janet Carlile Harris

Fifth (D)

4-2-24 cwt
(528 lb.) 28.75″

I am Diligence

Donated by Janet Carlile Harris

Sixth (C#)

5-0-25 cwt
(585 lb.) 30″

I am Courage

Donated by Janet Carlile Harris

Seventh (B)

7-0-17 cwt
(801 lb.) 33″

I am Blessed

Donated by Janet Carlile Harris

Tenor (A)

8-2-11 cwt
(963 lb.) 36″ *
*Per Dove’s Guide; elsewhere listed as 8-3-0 cwt (980 lb.)

Gaudeamus igitur juvenes dum sumus

In memory of Margaret Nichols Shurcliff; donated by members of her family and friends in the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers

Change Ringing Videos

Change ringing, in which a band of ringers plays long sequences of permutations on a set of peal bells, is a little-known but surprisingly rich and beautiful acoustical application of mathematics.

A documentary made in 2006 by George Perrin about the English art of campanology. Courtesy of the North American Guild of Change Ringers (NAGCR).

Ringing Mathematics

For all the bells to be sounded exactly where and when they should be requires very close teamwork among all the ringers in the band. Since a bell sounds about three quarters of a second after the ringer has initiated the pull, achieving correct striking requires the development of reliable internal rhythm, fine attunement to the actual sound of the bells, and the ability to interpret the visible movement of all the ropes in the circle.

The changes in the order of the bells’ sounding constitute a method that is governed by four rules and one ideal. The rules are that: (a) each bell sounds once in each row; (b) no bell may move more than one position at each change/row; (c) no row is repeated; and (d) the ringing begins and ends in Rounds.

The diagram shows the simplest of the methods, Plain Hunt, on four bells with a line drawn through the path—that is, the sequence of moves forward and backward in the order—that is followed by Bell #2. So, in the first row the bells ring in order 1234, then in the next row adjacent pairs of bells all switch positions and the order becomes 2143. In the next row, the bells in the first and last positions remain in place and all the others switch producing the new order: 2413. Such switching continues until the bells come back into rounds.

Change Ringing Method