I’ve been inundated by an email begging me to write another ‘Origins of Sayings & Phrases’ post, so here goes.
There have been bells in British churches for centuries. Presumably the original idea was to call the flock to worship, but they have also been rung as warnings and in celebration of local and major national events. Church bells are said to go back to Anglo-Saxon times, but it was only in the seventeenth century that sets of tuned bells were introduced and the art of bell-ringing evolved, which is still carried on today in many a parish church.
The bells are rung in patterns which are known as ‘changes’ – hence the saying Ringing the Changes.