Bellringing Explained

I have been asked to explain about peals and quarter peals, so I hope that the following will help non-ringers understand a little better what goes on when we are ringing the church bells.

We have 6 bells and, at a most basic level, they are rung in ‘rounds’, that is 1-2-3-4-5-6 repeatedly. The ringing of the bells should be evenly spaced so that you can hear each bell clearly. Moving on from this, once a ringer can control the speed of his/her bell, ‘call changes’ can be rung; for this, the ‘conductor’ will call pairs of bells to change places so, for example, the order changes to 1-3-2-4-5-6 and then perhaps, a few rounds later, to 1-3-4-2-5-6. This has endless permutations and breaks up the monotony of just ringing ‘rounds’ all the time. For ‘call changes’, only the conductor really needs to think about what is going to happen next and the other ringers just do as they are told.

The next stage of change ringing is where pairs of bells change at each stroke of ringing, so you then get, for example, 1-2-3-4-5-6, 2-1-4-3-5-6, 2-4-1-5-3-6, 4-2-5-1-3-6 and so on – often with no. 6 (the tenor bell) staying at the end. For this type of ‘method ringing’, each ringer needs to understand and memorise the method being rung and then be responsible for striking in the correct place. There are thousands of different methods, each with its own rules – the main one being that there will never be a repeated order of the bells and it will start and finish with ‘rounds’. For a ‘peal’ to be rung, there will be a total of 5040 changes and this takes about 3 hours; for a quarter peal – more manageable for the average ringer – 1260 changes take about 45 minutes. For the peal or quarter peal to be officially recognised, no errors are permitted!

In the tower, we have been attempting to ring a quarter peal once a month and this is something we hope to continue on the 3rd Sunday of each month for choral evensong, as long as enough of us are available.

We are still keen to welcome new ringers to the tower – especially as our newest recruits are now ringing independently and are about to move on to change ringing. If you hear us on a Friday, evening, do come up and see what we are up to. The door to the tower is on the north side of the church – just walk anticlockwise round the building and you will find it. There are 44 steps to climb, so be aware of that before you set off!
Angie Ayling