Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs
There are lots of different reasons - this is why it can be so addictive! It is not reserved just for those that are practising Christians, though many ringers are also actively involved in other church groups. There is a physical element to ringing, a mental element, the service to the church community element, the teamwork element and many more besides.
Why not find your local band and ask them why they ring?!
No, they are not. Ringing by rope and wheel in the manner that we do is only common in areas of the world that have had an English influence over the centuries. Over 90% of the 7121 "rings of bells" are found in England. Only 3% are found in Wales and rings are found in 37 churches in Ireland and 20 in Scotland. There are 11 rings in Africa, 9 in Canada, 9 in New Zealand, 55 in Australia and 46 in the United States. In the latter two countries there has been a steady stream of new installations over the last few years. There is even now a ring in Holland! You can find a list of all the rings here
The number of bells in churches does vary - 6 or 8 is the most common, though many have fewer and some considerably more! Three towers in the world have a ring of 16 bells, one a ring of 14 and about 130 have 12.
Most of the smaller churches in the UK do not actually have a ring of bells and they will chime a bell or bells instead In chiming the bell is either swung through a small arc or it is hit by an external clapper with the bell being fixed stationary.
This is how bells are rung. In this image the treble, or lightest, bell is on the left and the tenor, or heaviest, bell on the right.
It shows "rounds" being rung on six bells, 123456, 123456, 123456 ........... It will sound the same as going down a major scale on the piano; e.g. AGFEDC, AGFEDC, AGFEDC........
Look at the left bell - notice how the red "sally" is pulled downwards and is then taken upwards as the bell rotates - this is called the "handstroke".
When the rope is right up the ringer has hold only of the "tail-end" and (s)he pulls this downwards, the sally goes right down and bobs back up and is caught by the ringer; this is the "backstroke".
In rounds the bells follow each other, leaving an even gap between each bell. You can listen to this clip to hear how it would sound
The green line represents the ceiling of the "Ringing Room" through which the ropes pass to reach the bells in the "Belfry".
What you can see sticking out above the bell wheel, opposite the top of the bell, is the wooden "stay", which rotates with the bell, making contact with the wooden "slider", which is pushed back and forth, left to right and back again. This is the mechanism via which we stop the bells rotating, the bells are called to "Stand". It is also the safety mechanism. If a ringer pulls too hard and/or fails to catch the sally the stay may break. It is much easier and cheaper to replace the stay than it would be to repair the damage that might have been caused otherwise.
(Image courtesy of Fortran Friends)
You only need to be in reasonable health to ring.
The whole point of ringing is to use a good technique; one that requires the minimum amount of effort. It is very common for people to ring for 3 hours non-stop without being unduly tired.
Until his recent death, a ringer called Harold Rogers, from Isleworth, was comfortably into his 90s and was still ringing 3 hour long peals regularlyl!
Bells weights are still expressed most often in the traditional Imperial Weight System; cwts-qtrs-lbs.
Cwt = hundredweight - this is 8 stones or 112 pounds. This equates to c.51kg. Think of it as being two sacks of potatoes.
Qtrs = quarters - a quarter of a hundredweight or 28 pounds. This equates to c.13kg. Think of it as being half a sack of potatoes.
Lbs = pounds - each pound equates to 0.45Kg
For example, Sherbourne's largest, or "tenor", bell is described as being 11-1-17 - this is 11 hundredweights, 1 quarter and 17 pounds -
= ((11 x 112) + (1 x 28) +17)
= 1277 pounds, or c.579kg.
Very roughly, look at the first figure of the weight and multiply it by 100 to find the approximate number of pounds, or take the first figure of the weight and multiply it by 50 to find the number of kilograms.
Peals are often rung to mark a special occasion, either locally or a national celebration.
It is about 5040 changes and lasts approxiamately three hours, non-stop.
For peals on 8 bells and above, each "change*" is different from all the others, none are repeated and the peal starts and ends in rounds, e.g. 12345678. From peals on 6 bells things are different!
There are only 720 combinations of the numbers 123456 and therefore in a peal each will be rung 7 times - 7 x 720 = 5040. For 5 bells the number of possible changes is 120 and therefore each will be rung 42 times - 42 x 120 = 5040. For 4 bells the number of possible changes is 24 - can you work out how many times each will be rung?
They are a test of concentration and a little of stamina. There is often a feeling of achievement for the ringers at the end.
(* a change is when all the ringers pull their rope in turn to give a combination of the bells in a particular order - e.g. 214365787 or 36741586 - each bell is there once and once only.)
Though bellringers often do have another connection to the church in which they ring, such as being in the congregation or being a churchwarden, it is not always the case.
Ringers are from all walks of life, from the baker and butcher to the candlestick maker!
Everyone is made welcome and people are treated equally, no matter what their job or age is - one of the best things about bellringing.
Church bells are rung to call people to worship God. This has been the case for many centuries. They announce that the service is about to start and, in some churches, the point in the service where the bread and wine are being consecrated.
They also are rung for practice, often weekly on the same evening.
They also traditionally are rung at times of national celebration or in times of grief or disaster.
The bits are ringing are called "methods". Method names go back many years. By using common names ringers can ring bells with other ringers and know which pattern they are wanting to ring together
Name usually comprise of three parts.
Cambridge Surprise Major is made up of:-
Cambridge - a base name for the method to distinguish it from all the others - the name is often given because it was rung there first of all.
Surprise - tells a bellringer the type of method it is.
Major - says how many bells will be involved in the method, in this case - 8;
|Minumus||4 bells are changing their position|
|Doubles||5 bells are changing their position|
|Minor||6 bells are changing their position|
|Triples||7 bells are changing their position|
|Major||8 bells are changing their position|
|Caters||9 bells are changing their position|
|Royal||10 bells are changing their position|
|Cinques||11 bells are changing their position|
|Maximus||12 bells are changing their position|
When an odd number of bells are changing their position it is common to have the tenor, or largest bell, staying last every change; e.g. in Triples the front 7 bells change their position and the tenor, bell number 8, stays last all the time. This provides a nice beat and can help the ringers to ring more rhythmically/