Welcome! Whether you are new to ringing, or have not yet started to ring but would like to find out more, we hope these pages are helpful to you.
What we need to say upfront is that bell ringing is first and foremost: fun! Bell ringers are a friendly lot, and there is a very social aspect to ringing – whether it be organised outings to visit different towers, or the regular pub fixture after ringing practice. Bell ringing is a team activity that stimulates the brain and helps keep you fit (especially climbing some of those tower steps!) and it also makes a glorious sound!
Many consider ringing to be their contribution to church life although, interestingly, until Victorian times bell ringing was quite separate from the Church. Others think of bell ringing as an art, or a sport, or a mental challenge – or indeed all of these, and they do it for the pure pleasure and the company it brings. Bell ringers will ring for Church services and for special occasions such as weddings and funerals, and they will also ring to test their stamina and mental and technical skills by performing longer pieces of ringing as a personal and team challenge. We will acknowledge when people ‘score a first’ of something special, and this will often appear online as well as in The Ringing World, the weekly magazine for bell ringers.
The band getting ready to ring at St Oswald’s, Durham:
And now in full ‘swing’:
A pause in the ringing practice below at All Saint’s, Maidstone:
Ringers come from all walks of life and generally range in age from ten to those in their eighties. We take our child safeguarding seriously, and so this wonderfully inclusive activity is truly open to all ages. Many different societies have been formed, bringing together people from the same geographies or similar interests – all of them being pretty much an excuse to do more ringing!
“When I’m ringing I forget all the tensions and frustrations of the day. Even better: I couldn’t wish for a nicer group of friends!”
Could I become a ringer?
Read on, including the section explaining more about what change ringing is, and contact us to learn more about opportunities to ring near where you live. We’d love to personally tell you more, but you can also access a number of presentations with guidance notes, which tell you the general introduction to ringing, but also more about the science and history of it if you get really hooked! Perhaps start with ‘Come learn to ring!’, though everyone is different, so you can choose here which area is of interest to you New Resources (2017)
“Almost anyone can ring. And you can learn to the level you are personally happy with. Ringers might be unmusical, might be bad at maths, might not be very strong physically, and some might have mental and/or physical disabilities of some sort – it is really such an inclusive activity!”
Ringing is well within the capabilities of most people. The initial learning takes several weeks, after which you can begin to ring with the rest of the band (that’s what we call a team of people who ring together). Most ringers practise once or twice a week and ring before or after church service on Sunday.
“Being able to count is all the maths you’ll need and you can become a very good ringer without knowing anything about music.”
Ringers come from all walks of life, and learn at different ages. A recent young (teenage) ringer says this about ringing: “Over the past 2-3 years I have learned a lot, and it has helped me improve my social skills and confidence as well as team integration. Bell ringing also has opened up the opportunity of going to new and exciting places which I always look forward to. I would highly recommend it to anyone!”
Why learn to ring?
- Make friends around the world
- Develop a lifelong learning experience
- Maintain a traditional skill
- Provide a service to the church and the general community, as well as for those getting married, celebrating another special occasion, and saying goodbye to a loved one in a very special way
- Take part in a team activity
- Share stories and receive support (not just about ringing) and friendship in the pub after practice
- Have a great mental workout
- Have the opportunity to visit amazing places
- Use this new skill to complete part of your Duke of Edinburgh award, or to fundraise for a cause you believe in
Come and see
Listen for the bells at a church near you or send an email telling us where you live (town or village name; County and County Town names; and your full postcode) to find a tower in your area. Then go along and see what ringing is all about.
Beware! Once you’ve got the bug, you may find it hard to give up:
“I learnt to ring over forty years ago and I still get the same buzz that I did when I first started.”
“I have been ringing just a few years, and it’s obsessive for me! But for others it is about ringing once a week, and they are really happy with that.”
The origins of change ringing lie in the sixteenth century when church bells began to be fitted with a full wheel. This gave ringers control of their bell, allowing sets of bells (rings) to be rung in continuously changing patterns. To really grasp this someone can talk you through it, often by demonstrating with a small model.
The most familiar sound to a newcomer is probably that of ‘rounds’ where the bells are rung in order, smallest (highest sounding) to largest. Have a look at this being done here.
Music is then created by altering the order in which the bells sound. Physically this is done by the bells swapping places, ie one ringer waits a bit longer before pulling their rope to make the bell chime, whilst the person they are swapping with pulls earlier to get ahead of them. This is done either by someone calling out the numbers of the bells to swap them, or by learning defined sequences of changes called methods. Learning a few simple methods allows ringers to join in with other bands in towers around the world.
“One of the delights of ringing is the endless opportunity to learn new things.”
Sometimes we ring from the ground floor, sometimes from a ringing chamber part way up the tower, and we generally have 6, 8 or 10 bells in a tower, though we have some with greater numbers of bells, and some with fewer. We also sometimes ring on mini rings:
This is what goes on above the ringers’ heads, sometimes a storey or two above. The ‘clapper’ hits the side of the bell to make the sound. The wheel is controlling the movement of the bell, with the ringer controlling the wheel through pulling their rope.
For more information on this website about ringing, take a look at Change ringing overview, Learn to ring!, Ringing centres, and Things to ring for. Also, if you have some time, look at the Craft of Bellringing – you can watch the whole thing, which covers the history as well as how ringing actually works mechanically, or dip in and out according to the chapters you are interested in!
Where to ring (Dove) can help you find a tower You can also find out about the role of our Education committee here and don’t hesitate to contact us, as people will want to help you if you have queries!