FAQs

Learning to Ring

How do I move from ringing the basic methods to ones that are more “complicated”?

There are lots of practices out there, some ringing more advanced things than others. Why not go along to one of those? It might be polite to make contact first to alert them that you would like to come. However, remember your own practice night!

You are welcome to come to Guild events, even if you are not a member of the Guild, when it is often possible to ring things other than you might at your own tower.

Make contact with Graham Nabb at “The Edgehill Ringing Centre”- Graham and his team do a great deal of training. It is based in Kineton, Warwickshire.

Do remember that you can learn methods in your own time – perhaps you might purchase something from the Central Council Publications Committee Bookshop to help you do this?

Am I going to be taken up to the ceiling?

To be honest, most bellringers hate “that advert”! It is very rare indeed that anyone is taken up by a rope.

The safety record of bellringing is first class and this sort of dangerous behaviour would not be tolerated. Just do as your teacher tells you immediately and you will be fine!

Why do people ring bells?

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?!

How are bells rung?

Rounds on Six
Ringing Animation
(Click on image to animate)

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)

What does becoming a bellringer involve? 

Many bellringers see the main purpose of being a bellringer is to ring for the main Sunday service(s).  It is nice if you attend this service, but it is by no means compulsory in the vast majority of churches. This ringing usually lasts for 30 minutes or more before the service. Ringers that are not practicing members of the church really enjoy the physical and mental exercise and the companionship that ringing gives them, and will ring for services without attending them

There often a practice on one evening each week, typically between 7.30 and 9.00pm.

There will be plenty of opportunities to do more if you wish to.

Like many things, the more you do the quicker you progress; though please do contact other towers beforehand should you wish to ring with the band on a regular basis so you can improve – they might have their own learners who need a lot of their own time. Most will be more than happy to accommodate you.  Once you can handle a bell safely, why not attend Guild ringing events?

How do I start to learn to ring?

You can find contact details for most churches in the Coventry Diocese from this website. Unfortunately, not all churches with bells have enough ringers to keep their bells ringing regularly. Therefore, if you have any problems making contact with a local tower the webmaster will try to help via email

If you live in the south/west of The Coventry Diocesan Guild area is to make use of the Edgehill Ringing Centre, based at Kineton. You can make contact via this webpage or phone Graham Nabb, who runs the Centre, on 07974 743766 – he will let you know the next step!

If you are not in our area you can find your local Guild/Association from here and look in their website for a place where you can learn to ring. If you are not sure which of these to look for you might try the Dove’s Guide search page, where you can search for a place name, county, diocese, etc.

You can also ask for contact to be made by using the form in “Contact Us”.

At what age can you start to learn to ring bells?

There is no upper age – there are many active ringers who are well past retirement age. All you need is to be reasonably active.

The lower age is not set in stone. In some churches there is a minimum age set for insurance purposes, sometimes 11/12 – though this is not always the case. Please check at your local tower. With young people it is more likely to be a question of size – both of the young person and of the bells. If the bells are a light ring people will be able to ring them at a younger age than if they were heavy.

The Guild

I am not a Guild member. Can I come to Guild events?

Visiting ringers, and potential learners, are very welcome take part any of our events, except the Ringing Competitions – these being for Guild members only. Please introduce yourself to the ringer that is organising the ringing and let them know what you are able to ring.Please do put your name(s) in for tea beforehand in order to ensure that there is enough to go around.

Details will be on the website calendar.

How do I make contact with the Guild?

There is a list of officers in the “Guild” section of this website.  If you cannot find the correct one that you think is needed for your enquiry please use the form in “Contact Us”. Your message will be redirected to the appropriate Guild Member for response.

Why should I join the Coventry Guild

One of the great things about bellringing is the teamwork.  You have to ring in time with the rest of the band.  By joining the Guild you will increase the chances you have of becoming a more capable ringer and therefore your enjoyment of ringing.  You can attend our meetings, where you are likely to find other ringers that will help you to ring the more complicated methods that you will inevitably wish to learn.  You can access our training facilities.  We have a team of belfry advisors and you can ask them about how to look after your bell installation.

Most of all, you get great enjoyment out of being with a group of people with a common interest.

How do I become a member of the Guild?

To join the Guild all you need to be able to do is to ring rounds unaided and ring regularly at a tower within the Diocese of Coventry.

You need to complete an Application Form, including obtaining the signatures of a proposor and a seconder who are already members of the Guild and send it to your District Secretary, along with a year’s subscription.  You can be nominated for membership at any Guild or District event and can bring the form and subscription there, if this is more convenient to you.

General Questions

Are all bells rung in the same way?

No, they are not. They are rung in many different ways.  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 39 places in Ireland and 22 in Scotland. There are 13 rings in Africa, 8 in Canada, 8 in New Zealand, 65 in Australia and 48 in the United States. In the latter two countries there has been a steady stream of new installations over the last few years. There iare now are rings in Belguim and 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.

How are bells rung?

Rounds on Six
Ringing Animation
(Click on image to animate)

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)

How fit do you have to be to ring bells?

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.

Harold Rogers, from Isleworth, was comfortably into his 90s and was still ringing 3 hour long peals regularly. Dennis Brock rang for 45 minutes continuously on his 100th birthday!

What do the bell weights on the Guild website mean?

 Bells weights are still expressed most often in the traditional Imperial Weight System; cwts-qtrs-lbs.Cwt = a 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)

= 1232+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.

What is a peal?

Peals are often rung to mark a special occasion, either locally or a national celebration.

It is about 5040 changes and lasts approximately 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.)

Who are the bellringers?

 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 often not 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.

Why are bells rung?

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.

Why do you give “strange” names to bits of ringing?

The bits are ringing are called “methods”. Method names go back many years. By using a common name for a method ringers can ring bells with other ringers and know which pattern they are expected 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.