In the early Victorian church records the vestry clerk wrote that his
friend and parishioner, Mr. John Armstrong, was a sixteen-year-old apprentice
on the sailing ship 'Happy Return' which transported the bells
from the foundry of W & T Mears in London to North Shields. Mr.
Armstrong apparently took pleasure in telling the story that the first
peal of bells was lost at sea and that their replacements were given
by a wealthy ship owner and churchwarden James Storey. The bells were
rung for the first time on 18th January 1788 in honour of Queen Charlotte's
In 1807 the tenor bell cracked and had to
In 1874 the ring was increased to eight with a new
treble given by Col. John Joicey of Newton Hall, Northumberland and
a new tenor given by John Straker of Tynemouth. The 'old' bells
were re-hung and a new clock chiming mechanism to ring out 'The
Cambridge Chimes' was fitted. On Sunday 12th July the new octave
was rung for the first time.
On Christmas 1878 the tower became
the first in the diocese to have a ring of ten bells when two more were
donated by Maria Wheatley, in memory of her parents William and Margery.
In 1877 the first meeting of the Durham Diocesan Association of
Ringers was held at Christ Church. In 1977 and in 2002 celebrations
to mark the centenary and the 125th anniversary of the association,
now called Durham and Newcastle Diocesan Association of Church Bell
Ringers, were held in the tower.
In 1937-8 the bells were removed
to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London to be cleaned, retuned and fitted
with new headstocks and ball bearings. They were re-hung in their original
wooden frame and rededicated on July 23rd 1938.