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Chimes Changing at Christ’s Hospital

A new silence has swept across Christ’s Hospital School’s campus, echoing that of London without the chimes of Big Ben. Christ’s Hospital has switched off the electronic bell system so now, apart from the chiming of the grand clock on Big School and the Chapel bell, the pupils’ daily routine is no longer interrupted by a shrill ring.

Deputy Head, Jon Perriss said: ‘’We decided to switch off all the bells in the boarding houses last term – for example the 7.15 rising bell woke all the pupils up – and around the campus for change of lessons and breaks. Bells add to the sense of routine and familiarity, but we wanted to avoid falling into the trap of Pavlov’s ‘conditioning’ experiment. We were interested to see how the pupils would react in an environment without auditory reminders, as they will need to be prepared for a sense of the world without bells.

“As with any change, there were some initial noises of disquiet, but this quickly settled down and both pupils and staff now cannot remember a time when there were bells to orchestrate their every move. Everyone knows the time they need to be in certain places – house roll calls, lessons, meals – and they just get there without fuss.”

Apart from the traditional chiming clock in the Quad and the Chapel bell, the new regime helps pupils and staff to value silence. Jon added: “It’s quite inspiring not having a modern ‘device’ breaking through the sense of grace and calmness around the School. We are fortunate to live and work in a beautiful campus; surroundings that are enhanced by peace. We live in a busy and environmentally noisy world – a school without a piercing bell is quite refreshing.”

The original architect for the Elizabeth Tower, housing London’s ‘Big Ben’ at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, was former Christ’s Hospital pupil, Augustus Pugin, in the 19th Century.

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