Ring those bells!

Screenshot 2024 03 09 220333

Ring those bells! Surely one of the most iconic sounds of the Barossa must be the sound of bells ringing out over the countryside. Since the early days of German settlement, the bells in the Barossa have been busy – calling the faithful to worship on Sundays, announcing weddings, funerals and other important events. ringing in the New Year and joyously proclaiming Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. In early Barossa days bells were also rung to let labourers in the field know it was the end of the working day. When cyclists from the Tour Down Under cycled through the Barossa in January this year, bells from 5 Lutheran churches pealed out to welcome them.  And during the Covid pandemic, when the churches had to be empty, the bells still rang out at Easter, reminding people of the hope we can share. (Listen to them with the links at the end of the article).

Do you love the sound of bells? (I have it on good authority that many dogs howl along, so they no doubt are bell-lovers, too). If you do, the Barossa is the place for you, as with its 24 bells, it has the greatest concentration per capita in Australia.

For the early settlers, the bells provided a special link to their homeland.  On 24th June 1883, the dedication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church “Herberge Christi,” was held at Bethany. A new bell was brought from Germany. Pastor E Hamon wrote afterwards “From far and wide, the gathering began arriving, already at 9am, as the lovely tone of the bell rang out from the tower of the newly built church. Yes! It was real German bell tones and reminded one of the old homeland” ….
early lightpass church and belltower

The first church built in Light Pass in 1850 had a small wooden bell tower and weathervane on the roof.


A bell, of course, has to be hung somewhere. Originally many bells were hung from simple wooden structures, and more substantial bell-towers were built as funds allowed. Noris Ioannou, in Barossa Journeys, notes that in the earliest Lutheran churches, a small open bell-tower was usually installed on one side of the roof, or

Immanuel Church Bell Tower

The second bell tower was a larger wooden structure. Note the ‘new’ Immanuel church behind the trees.

else the bell tower followed an ancient tradition and was constructed as a separate feature.” Later Lutheran churches in the valley “are based around the traditional plan of a towered belfry which soars above the entrance portal, located at one end of the rectangular nave.” Although there are variations in the style of the tower, most are finished with a metal spire.



StraitGate new Lutheran church side view

The oldest bell still peals out from the 1887 bell-tower, at Strait Gate, Light Pass. The tower was retained when the old church was demolished.

The bell at Strait Gate Lutheran Church Light Pass.

The oldest bell in the district is the Strait Gate church bell. It is a single bronze bell cast by Fr. Gruhl at the Kleinwelka foundry, Germany. Made in 1872, it weighs 456 kg and the mouth diameter is 915mm, ringing out the tone of G#.  In addition, it has the decorative band in high relief and cherub heads on the crown, typical of bells from that foundry1.  The purchase of the bell was made possible by the generous donation of 50 pounds by a member of the congregation. The church put in another 42 pounds, and the bell was ordered from Germany. It originally hung from a simple wooden structure on a platform on the ground, and we are told that, on the occasion of the marriage of Br. Carl Obst, “it sounded its first clear peals across the village of Light Pass and beyond”.  In 1887 the church was given money to pay for a fine stone bell-tower. Read the lovely story of ‘Father Kruger’ – the man who donated the money for the belltower – and why – in this newspaper article from 1905. In 1960 the old church was demolished, but the tower was kept and incorporated into the new church.

Immanuel Church

Immanuel Church, Light Pass has one of the largest bells.

The largest and heaviest bells are in St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa (1,098 centimetres and 532 kilograms), and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Light Pass (1095 centimetres and 515 kilograms).

St John's Tanunda

St John’s Tanunda has a two-bell peal

The only churches in the valley with a two-bell peal are St John’s, Tanunda and St John’s Dutton (to the north).

If you want to know about the bells of the Barossa, Hervey Bagot is your man. He was the bell master for Australia from 1977 (hands up all those who knew we even have such a thing!). A keen bell-ringer from his teenage years, he designed, built and maintained bells throughout Australia. According to ‘AdelaideAZ’ “Bagot wrote several publications extolling the 24 church bells in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, revealing a treasured collection unequalled in Australia. For each bell, Hervey listed the city where the bell was cast, the date of casting, the weight, the diameter, the age and the main frequency”. 2

A big “thank you” to all those bell-ringers in the valley, who bring the valley alive with the sound of the bells!

Listen to the bells:    

Strait Gate bell – Sunday morning  

Langmeil Lutheran Church, Barossa Valley Easter 2020

Barossa Bells LP

Barossa Bells LP – a vintage find!

Gnadenfrei church. Barossa Valley Easter 2020

Or borrow the Barossa Bells CD (authors L. Grope et al) through Barossa public libraries.


  1. Bagot, H., ‘Bells of the Barossa’, Journal of Friends of Lutheran Archives, no 10 (October 2000),16
  2. Hervey Bagot the bell master for Australia from 1977; honing the harmonics of Adelaide’s most famous chimes | Adelaide AZ
  3. Ioannou N, Barossa Journeys into a valley of tradition 2nd ed, New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2000
  4. Ev Leske: The Strait Gate Tower on the Barossa Heritage Trail App (Light Pass Tour)
  5. Strait Gate Lutheran Church Light Pass, A Centenary History 1861 -1961.
  6. Ella Pryor, Barossa Churches are giving the ring around, The Barossa Leader, Apr 09 2020 Updated June 24, 2022 . https://www.barossaleader.com/page/barossa-churches-are-giving-the-ring-around?
  7. Strait Gate Lutheran Church Light Pass Road, Light Pass organ (ohta.org.au)
  8. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/162431033