There is a long history of bells being hung in the churches of Sussex, a number are still in existence that, although not dated, can with confidence be dated back to the thirteenth century. Gradually single bells were added to, and bell fittings were altered to give more control over the sounding of them. Bell foundries were established in Sussex to cast new bells for local churches due in part to the problems of transporting heavy goods any distance.
With more control of the bells the order in which they sounded could be altered and so change ringing was born. Dating back to the sixteenth century there are numerous records of payment for ringers across Sussex, from Bosham and Pagham in the west to Bodiam and Hailsham in the east. New rings of bells were cast to provide the musical instruments for change ringing to be practised upon.
Some of the methods being rung would be familiar to us today; the first peal of 5040 changes by Sussex ringers was completed at Horsham in 1766. This was Grandsire Triples and it is possible that over thirty years earlier this method was being practised in Chichester. In those days bellringing was seen very much as a secular sport to be carried out by the upper class tradesman of the town. This was the case right into the nineteenth century, however things were already changing. The Oxford Movement was developing and this resulted in more control being taken by the clergy for the bells hung in churches.
This led to the formation of ringing societies up and down the country, however Sussex lagged a few years behind the pioneers. The situation was soon to be rectified. At Brighton the idea had been spoken about to form a Sussex ringing society but had got no further than just talk. The catalyst was the installation of a new ring of bells at St Peter’s church in Brighton, and one of those taught to ring was George Attree. He was a well connected business man in the town and through his endeavours our present Association was formed. He called a meeting at Brighton in December 1884, this was adjourned until January 1885 when the Sussex County Association of Change Ringers was officially formed.
The SCACR had 251 members from 25 towers across Sussex and George Attree was the first secretary. The Bishop of Chichester was president, there was no master though a post was created at a later date. From these beginnings the SCACR has evolved into the body which we now know. In 2008 it had 1,307 members ringing in 136 towers. The original aims of the SCACR were similar to those of the modern day. The SCACR has survived and evolved to meet changing times and needs. It is in a strong position to carry on the same good work into the future.