Can I Learn to Ring Church Bells?

The first question many people ask is the obvious one, "Can I become a ringer?". The answer is almost always, "Yes". With 5,000 towers all over the world and over 40,000 bell ringers in the UK, there are plenty of opportunities to ring bells.

Bells are rung by such a wide variety of people that it would be impossible give the characteristics of a 'normal' bell ringer. Bell ringing is open to everyone.

Ringers tend to be over the age of about 10 or 11, but only so that they are tall and strong enough and able to take instructions. This means everyone is welcome to try their hand. For those not quite old enough some places offer handbell ringing too.

Learn to Ring

It is commonly said that anyone who can ride a bike can bell ringing. Predominantly this is true. You don't have to be strong to be a ringer, it is the technique that makes it happen. You don't have to be mathematical or musical but if you are then this can help. You can be of any faith or not religious at all. Whether you 18 or 80 you can become a bell ringer.

Bellringing is a challenging and rewarding activity.  It is not "instant", it does take a little while to become a competent ringer, but it is very satisfying when you reach to stage at which you are able to control your bell and ring with other ringers.

You are always learning. There is always something more to do, if you want to, and this means people who have been ringing for many years are still interested in, and enthusiastic about, bellringing.

Most ringers ring in their local tower on Sundays and also one practice night each week. There are many opportunities to ring over and above this, for people who want to.

Competent ringers are welcome to join other bands on Sundays or for their practices and often benefit from ringing with other ringers who are a bit more experienced than they are. There is a "bellringing community" that is very welcoming and encouraging to other ringers.

If you would like to know where you can learn to ring near you please use our Contact Form, letting us know the area where you live so that we can direct you to the nearest place that can teach you.  There is a Ringing Centre,based in Kineton, that specialises in the training of new ringers.  If you are able to get to Kineton on a regular basis this might be your best first point of contact.

If you do not live in the Diocese of Coventry you may wish to look at Dove's Guide.  Here you can search to find a ring of bells near you.  Many of the churches have a website link you can follow to find out when ringing takes place and often a contact name.  Alternatively, check out this list of ringing societies - there will be one that covers your area of the UK. There are several that are abroad, in Ireland, USA & Canada, Australia & New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe.  There is even one ring of bells in Holland! There will be contact details on that website where you can make an enquiry.

This video is sourced from http://www.bellringing.org/learntoring/ where you can find a more detailed explanation of the stages involved in learning.

 

(with thanks to http://candsbellringers.com/learn-to-ring/ and leicesterdg.org.uk)

What is Involved in Learning to Ring

Once gained, bell ringing is a skill for life you'll never forget and can open up a lifetime of experiences and enjoyment.  How long will this take?  There is no one answer to this.  Some people seem to be "naturals" at ringing bells and make quick strides in the learning process. Most of us are not so natural and we take quite a while before we are able to ring a bell confidently; a number of weeks or months. The length of time taken does not matter at all and you should not worry if it applies to you. It is like riding a bike - suddenly you realise that you can do it and it is very satisfying when this happens to you!

There is a relatively new and quickly growing national scheme that many churches are using to give a structured learning programme to new ringers.  It is a good example of what becoming a bellringer involved.  New ringers follow the 'Learning The Ropes' programme to learn to ring, taught by accredited instructors through the national ITTS programme. There are five stages from beginner to experienced ringer and at all stages you're helped out by either a personal tutor or other capable bell ringers.

Level 1 - Technique

The first stage in learning to ring is to develop the skills to 'handle' the bell. That means the technique to control the bell using the rope. This is done on a one-to-one basis with your trained instructor and is often done on a silenced bell.

You will usually taught each of the two movements, or 'strokes', in ringing separately and then helped to put them together. The technique is all about holding the rope correctly, moving with it and catching the role at the right place and time.Learn to Ring

Level 2 - Ringing With Others

Bell ringing is all about working as part of a team, so once you can 'handle' your bell you are quickly introduced to ringing with the rest of the 'band' of ringers.

The key skills learnt are the ability to watch and listen to the ringing to know when you pull and sound your bell and to be able to varying the pace of your ringing to fit in with the group. This is again usually done with a personal tutor, who will help you to develop the skills.

Level 3 - Start Change Ringing

To get the most out of bell ringing, the challenges lie in change ringing. This is when bell ringers follow a pattern called a method, where the bells change the order in which they strike each time.

You'll learn about the structure of methods, how to remember them and how to move the place in the order that your bell strikes. There is often some theory and reading to do, but your tutor and the band will help out with advice. You will also learn additional skills such as preparing the bells for ringing and setting them safely 'down' again.

Level 4 - Developing Change Ringing Skills

Once you have grasped the key skills of change ringing, there are more complicated patterns of methods to learn and also variations to existing ones you know. There is a world of opportunity to learn new things, and using the clever approach bell ringers have to memorise the pattern it is not even too difficult!

Level 5 - Become Experienced Bell Ringer

You finish the end of your learning to ring process by taking part in an extended period of bell ringing, usually about 45 minutes, which is then recorded in the official journal. There are then thousands more methods to discover, places to visit and new ringers to meet across the world.

This information is from http://www.bellringing.org/ which is a good website for you to visit if you wish to know more about bellringing

 
How a Bell Works

English style ringing is also called 'full circle ringing', and evolved in England about 400 years ago. The style of ringing, and the way theBell Parts bells are hung, are intimately connected, and evolved together.

The bell and wheel are both mounted on the headstock, which is free to rotate. The bell is shown here mouth down, at rest, but when ringing, it swings through 360 degrees from mouth-up to mouth-up and back again.

The rope is attached to the wheel, passing round it and down through a pulley block to the ringing room many feet below. The rope is all that connects the ringer below to the bell above. It wraps alternately each way round the wheel, so that the rope is in tension as the bell comes to rest at the end of each swing, and the ringer can control it by exerting more or less force as required

(See an animation of bell and ringer in action)

Hand and Back

This diagram shows the position of the bell and rope at each stroke. Less rope is wound round the wheel at handstroke than at backstroke (see arrows). As a result the ringer has surplus rope at handstroke, and therefore holds the 'sally' - the fluffy coloured part some way from the rope end. The sally disappears through the ceiling each backstroke in the animation.

The clapper strikes on opposite sides of the bell at each stroke. As the bell comes to rest, the clapper keeps going, so it strikes the leading edge each time

The bell can be rested when it is mouth up, with the stay resting against the a slider bar underneath the bell. It slides in order to let the bell go just beyond the balance point in each direction. The slider bar, seen end on in the diagram, moves about a foot, within a slot in the runner board (shown grey).

Ringing Together

This diagram represents a band of 6 ringers ringing "rounds".  This is when the bells ring on after another from the lightest bell with the highest note to the heaviest with the lowest:

123456
123456
123456
123 ......

See how the red "sally" is pulled down and then the rope is taken up through the ceiling as the bell rotates clockwise.

It is then pulled back down, the bell rotates anticlockwise, and the ringer catches it when it bounces back up.

The six ringers ring after each other in turn, keeping an even space between the bells.

It is from rounds that most ringing starts and it returns to rounds before it stops.

How Bells Work

 (With thanks to John Harrison, the Miami ringers and Fortran Friends)