Welcome to the bell-ringers page
Tower Captain: Angie Ayling
Please CLICK HERE for Contact details
The Tower is affiliated to the Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association of Church Bell-Ringers
We meet in Minchinhampton church tower every Friday evening at 7.30 for practice, which finishes at 9.00
We ring for the 10.00 Sunday Eucharist (starting at 9.15) and for weddings and funerals as required.
There is a branch 8-bell practice at Horsley every 4th Wednesday in the month except in October and December and when it falls in Holy Week. There is also a monthly 6-bell practice, which is a 'movable feast' - see below.
New members - whether experienced or not - are always welcome - but please contact Angie Ayling
THE ELLACOMBE MECHANISM
During the ‘lockdown’, when you have heard the bells being rung, we have not been ringing the bells properly—it has been done using the ‘Ellacombe Mechanism’. This requires only one person to operate, unlike the traditional method, where the bells are rotated through over 360 degrees (full circle ringing) to sound them and one person is needed for each bell. Instead the bells are kept static (or "hung dead") and a hammer is struck against the inside of the bell.
The system was devised in 1821 by Reverend Henry Thomas Ellacombe of Gloucestershire, who first had such a system installed in Bitton in 1822. He created the system as an alternative to using his local ringers which meant he did not have to tolerate the behaviour that he saw as unruly. The Revd Ellacombe was the editor of the bell ringing column of a church periodical called "Church Bells", and was not slow to criticise the actions of bell ringers who did not ring exclusively for church services.
A particular target was "prize ringing", where teams from different churches competed for a prize for the best ringing, usually accompanied by a social event (something that normally occurs annually nowadays—the branch Striking Competition). An example was in 1875 when he weighed in with a diatribe against a ringing competition at Slapton in Devon, when he wrote, "We blame the Vicar and churchwardens for allowing the bells to be so prostituted for the benefits of a publican's pocket...". However in reality, it required very advanced and rare expertise for one person to ring changes, which most churches did not have and it alienated bell ringers from the church.
The sound of a chime was a feeble substitute for the rich sound of swinging bells, and the apparatus fell out of fashion. Consequently the apparatus was removed from many towers in the past leaving holes in the ceiling and often frames without ropes. Minchinhampton is quite rare in still having one of these mechanisms still in place and operational.
Yes, this is news from the Bell Tower. Of course, during the lockdown period, we have not been able to ring the bells on a Friday evening or Sunday morning—and will not be able to resume for the foreseeable future—but that does not mean we have been neglecting our ringing practice!
We have been using a new website called ‘RingingRoom’ which was developed only shortly before the Covid virus struck.
Each ringer joins the Zoom meeting and signs into the ringing room, which has been set up in advance. The bells / ropes are then assigned to individuals. To ‘ring’, you use the keypad numbers or the space bar—it is as simple as that.
It does indeed sound easy, but it has proved for many to be more difficult than ringing the proper bells; we have not been able to work out why, as all you have to do is count and move one finger at the right time! Because we have been using Zoom at the same time, we have been able to chat about all sorts of things as well as ring. Ringing in this way for an hour or 90 minutes has been mentally very tiring but it has been a way for some less experienced ringers to start to tackle methods which they would not yet be capable of doing on the ‘big’ bells because of physical bell-handling difficulties. We had good fun one evening when, as there were only 5 of us, we tried ringing 10 bells with each of us taking 2 of them; this was a real challenge—making sure to move the right finger at the correct time. Tony had the hardest job there, calling the changes to move the positions of the bells whilst also coordinating his 2 fingers.
We have been pleased to welcome to our practice a lady who now lives in Dorridge, near Solihull, but who learnt to ring in Minchinhampton about 50 years ago. Some of us have also been sharing practices with others from nearby towers in the Stroud district (as pictured above) and further afield.
‘Ringingroom’ was featured on the BBC 10 o’clock news at the end of May and this led to spurt of interest in the website—not good for those of us trying to practise as it led to some operational difficulties for a few days!
We look forward to the time when we are able to ring the bells again properly and wake up the town on a Sunday morning.
Once again the bellringers were invited to ring at the Colesbourne Snowdrop festival at the beginning of February. We were most grateful to be joined by 5 ringers from neighbouring towers as without them we would not actually have had enough people to ring! This also meant that some of us could walk round the grounds and enjoy tea and cake while others rang.
We were watched by dozens of visitors, many of whom expressed a keen interest in the ringing as it is a ground-floor ring, they were able to watch what we were doing.
There are only 5 bells and they are very light, the heaviest being not much heavier than our lightest bell! This can make them a little tricky to handle. Nevertheless, we were able to ring a variety of methods as well as rounds and call changes.
Victory Bells Tuesday & Wednesday May 8th & 9th became known as V.E. days when the welcome announcement came that war had ceased in Europe. Thankful as we were, there was yet a dilemma for ringers who anxiety to be first in heralding peace was beset by the difficult announcement on the night of the 7th that the official celebrations should follow the next day. However the ringers did assemble at 9pm and, on appealing to the Rector, decided to keep to the national programme.
On Tuesday we commenced at 8.30am & after ringing & firing for an hour, we journeyed to Avening in cars provided by Messrs Hathaway & Rixen, this giving much enjoyment to our friends over there. Further ringing took place in the evening for the thanksgiving service held here and also on Wednesday evening to help enliven proceedings then being held in the Market Square.
THE BELLS RING AGAIN
Ringers generally as well as the public were greatly excited to hear from the wireless on Wednesday Nov 11th 1942 that the Prime Minister had ordered that the bells should be rung between the hours of 9 & 12am on Sunday Nov 15th as a thanksgiving for our victories in Libya & Newspapers too emblazoned the fact with headlines far above the publicity usually devoted to bells. Ringers responded generously to the call, but not all were in the fortunate position as us here, many bands being depleted, & also many bells gone, as some must have realized more acutely. Such were the demand for bellringers that they were advertised for in the papers.
Our first appeal came from Avening & a party of 4 rang there from 9am till nearly ten am when we motored back for ringing here from 10am till 11.15. After rising & a short try-out of men & materials & which both proved competent after the long period of idleness, a start was made & a good Quarter Peal (1260) of Stedman Doubles was rung. For once all comments were of a congratulatory nature.
The Declaration of War on Sunday Sept 3rd carried considerable interruption to ringing & from the Sunday following all ringing was stopped for the month by order of the Police. Permission was given to commence again on Sunday Oct 1st, this on the same date that evensong was introduced at 3.30pm on account of Black-out. Order prevailed for a time till Armistice Sunday when for some unknown reason we were again banned for the day. Since this service ringing has been uninterrupted.
It was felt by some it would be difficult to arrange afternoon ringing for service but luckily the majority were convinced it was our duty to carry on as often as possible. Up to this time practices had been suspended since August but by Blacking Out the tower we made a start on Handbells on Oct 3rd . Xmas early ringing 6-30am was as usual & we were pleased to find there were no restrictions in Ringing out the Old & Ringing in the New Year. As usual we had many interested spectators in the tower for the event.
Generally speaking, although we have suffered no depleted ranks through the war so far we have perhaps missed the longer evening practices which was beneficial to us all.
By broadcast on Tuesday June 13th that
1/ No person shall in any area in Great Britain sound any Church Bell or cause or permit any church bell to be sounded, except for the purpose of making a signal, in accordance with directions given by a commissioned officer of His Majesty’s Forces or the chief officer of police for the area, to indicate that members of an enemy force are landing or attempting to land, or have landed from the air.
2/ In this Order the expression “Church Bell” includes the bell of any church, chapel or other place of public worship ordinarily used or intended for summoning persons to public worship or for any like purpose and any bell ordinarily used or intended for tolling at a cemetery. 3 This order may be cited as the Control of Noise.
Defence Order 1940
During July the Priest in Charge (Rev Evans) approached the Captain on the subject of the Home Guards ringing the bells in case of invasion or as an alternative would the bellringers undertake to ring them themselves on the instruction of the proper authority. The former was pointed out as being entirely impractical, both from the safety of the H.Gs themselves as well as of the bells & fittings. They evidently imagined a Church bell was rung after the manner of a door bell. As regards the latter the ringers, however patriotic they might be, could not commit themselves for an unknown duration. On consideration what was finally arranged was for the H.Gs to chime 2 bells, 3rd & 4th with the chiming apparatus. This it was thought would be an altogether unusual chime in the locality.
We are very pleased to have three learners at present (not that we are not all learning all the time actually, but these are beginner-learners!). Sheryl has been learning since July while Bea and Charlie only started in November. All are making excellent progress, having been helped by receiving some individual practice outside of the usual Friday practice night. These sessions have been on a muffled bell, which you may have heard tolling on the odd evening.
It is said that it takes about 12 hours to learn how to handle a bell properly, but that means 12 hours on the end of a rope, not just 12 hours in the ringing chamber. At a Friday practice, a learner may only have the opportunity for three or four 5-minute goes.
If you are interested in finding out more about what we get up to in the Bell Tower, please come along on a Friday evening, 7.30pm or ring Angie on 884203.
The Stroud Branch of ringers held an outing on Sept 28th and two of us from Minchinhampton joined in. We visited 4 towers in Monmouthshire— St Nicholas, Trellech; St Thomas à Becket at Shirenewton; St Mary Virgin Caldicot and, lastly, St Mary, Chepstow. At the second tower, the heaviest of the 6 bells was only the weight of our lightest, so that made the bells more challenging to ring. Access to the towers varied as ever—with the route up to the ringing chamber in Trellech, via steep, uneven stone steps and wooden ladders, being particularly interesting!
You may have noticed that, of late, we have occasionally only been ringing 5 bells —or sometimes have not rung at all on a Friday or Sunday. This has been due to a lack of ringers, so we need more recruits! If you would like to come and see what we get up to, please come along on a Friday 7.30pm-9pm and say hello, have a look, perhaps have a go and consider learning to ring yourself.
We had hoped to have taken part in the Stroud Branch ‘Striking Competition’ which, this year, was held at Frampton on Severn. Unfortunately, after having fielded two teams last year, we were unable to gather even 6 ringers together for this event because of injury and other circumstances. Therefore, we had to borrow 3 ringers from other towers so as to even participate. This just shows how much we are in need of new or returning ringers to come and join us.
On Saturday April 6th a team from the church bellringers travelled to Hewelsfield, in the Forest of Dean, to take part in the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan 6-Bell Striking Competition, competing for the ‘Croome Trophy’. (This came about because Minchinhampton ringers won the Stroud Branch striking competition last June.) Later the same morning, the 8-Bell ‘Penn Trophy’ Competition was held at St Briavels and Tony Natt was a member of the Stroud Branch team taking part.
The competition rules required each of the 10 teams (in 3 groups, over the course of 2½ hours) to ring a method with a total of 120 changes; this takes about 4 minutes. Judges sit nearby (outside) and assess every single blow of every bell, marking as a fault any that are not struck at exactly the right time. The faults are then totalled and the team with the fewest is the winner.
We rang the method ‘Bob Doubles’ which is 40 changes long; when augmented with ‘bobs’ it is extended to 120 changes.
The bells took a bit of getting used to—particularly the treble (no. 1) - but each team had 7 minutes to practise, so as to familiarise themselves with the handling of the bells. We were the 4th team to compete, which meant standing outside in the cold for 45 minutes before it was our turn!
The team comprised: 1.Sally Haigh 2. Naoko Ponter 3. Angie Ayling 4. Paul Verney 5. Tony Natt (conductor) 6. Mick Wright
The results: we came 9th, which was perhaps a bit disappointing. However, we were competing against some of the best ringing bands in the county, so we felt we had done ourselves justice. The Stroud Branch team came 8th out of 9 teams in the Penn Trophy.
2018-2019 was another good year in the tower, the chief success of which was winning the Branch Striking Competition held at Kemble. We had expected to come second at best, so winning it was rather a surprise! We are representing the branch at the Diocesan competition on April 6th in the Forest of Dean.
We have not rung as frequently as in previous years, having to miss a number of Friday practices because of events being held in the church (or the Market House) or because of insufficient ringers being present. However, we continued to have elevern regular ringers for much of the year but then lost one of the younger ones recently; we hope he might return one day.
We rang in February at the Colesbourne Snowdrop Festival and had a very enjoyable tower outing in April to Tetbury, Malmesbury and the vicinity, arranged by Paul Verney. We hosted the branch meeting in September, some of us joined in the Branch outing in October and in December we enjoyed a very pleasant evening playing skittles in the Cotswold Club. This year we also rang for a number of weddings (having rung for none last year) and some of us rang elsewhere in the branch for weddings where they were short of ringers.
Three quarter peals were rung in the tower: for Jilly Jennings’ 100th and for David Pobjoy’s interment of ashes, both in April, and the last one by a visiting band. Between three of us, we rang a total of 100 quarter peals (the vast majority being rung by Tony Natt.) As indicated above, David Pobjoy – previous Tower Captain – died in April; two of his sons rang in the quarter peal, along with Paul Barton who learnt here and now rings at Canterbury Cathedral. Finally, the ringing which was most favourably commented upon by those listening outside was that for the funeral of Gynnis Mayes in November. It was great that the ringing contributed so much to the solemnity of the occasion.
Angie Ayling - Tower Captain
On February 10th, 7 of our ringers plus 2 spouses went to Colesbourne to ring at the church there, which is in the grounds of Colesbourne Park. The estate is owned by a former Lord Lieutenant Sir Henry Elwes and each year he opens it up for people to visit the wonderful snowdrops and partake of delicious teas.
This was our 4th visit; bellringers—mostly from the Cheltenham area—are invited to ring for one Saturday or Sunday afternoon whilst the gardens are open. There are 5 bells on the ground floor, so visitors to the gardens can come into the church and watch the ringing in action. The bells are very light—the heaviest being the same weight as our lightest—so they take a bit of getting used to!
We are busy practising for our diocesan association striking competition in April. This is being held in the Forest of Dean—with care being taken by the organisers to hold the event at a tower that will not be familiar to any of the competing teams. Whilst for the branch striking competition (which we won) we were required to ring for about 5 minutes, this time the ringing will have to be twice as long—with every strike of each bell being judged by the assessors, so it is likely to be a nerve-wracking affair!
Angie Ayling, Tower Captain