April - Applications for Funds Bear Fruit.
Last month we were very pleased to learn that our two applications for funding support for work on the bells had both borne fruit. Bingley Town Council and the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers’ Bell Repair Fund both granted us our requests in full. Our aim was to be proactive in making repairs and maintenance of the bells a clear focus, in order to prevent more serious problems in the future, which could result in the bells becoming silent.
Our ring of eight bells date from 1773 and a recent report showed that, despite our regular maintenance, considerable works were necessary. The timescale for this work aims for completion by April 2018, which is the 250th anniversary of the first peal on the bells. The full cost of the scheme was estimated to be over £3,500. We applied to the Bell Fund because both ourselves and the PCC contribute to it and so had some right to expect support from them. However, we were less certain in our application to the Town Council – would they see this as a community asset or not? We are very grateful that they did without dissent. It was accepted that the sound of our bells have been heard over the town and surrounding areas, for almost 250 years as they help people celebrate and mourn local and national events.
Every year the bells are rung to mark community occasions, local weddings and funerals, alongside regular church services. In addition, we pointed out that All Saints’ Church is the only church in Bingley with tower bells which can be rung, and that they were much loved by the Airedale Poet, John Nicholson who regularly visited the tower and included the bells in his poetry.
We hoped we had demonstrated that the bells were an important piece of Bingley’s history and heritage. While the ringing of bells supports the call to and celebration of Christian worship at All Saints’ Church, Bingley, the whole community in Bingley also benefit: we feel we sustain an activity which forms part of our collective, national memory from childhood, marking momentous occasions from the personal to the national level throughout our lives.
Thanks to these funds the repairs and maintenance will be completed in good time to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the bells and will also leave them in good condition to ring on for many years to come.
March -The Spiral Staircase
In January a survey form about bell ringers and bell ringing in our area of Yorkshire arrived. The form wishes us to evaluate how we are doing at All Saints and what support we need for the future. The results of a survey conducted five years ago were also included in the pack. This showed that the ringing at All Saints compared to other towers in the area was progressing well. We had sufficient ringers to ensure quality ringing took place for all Sunday services, weddings during the year and to meet the demands for ringing for other church and community occasions.
So what support do we now need? Firstly, we always need new ringers to replace older ringers who retire or are no longer able to ring with such vigour. As always we extend an open invitation to come along to anyone who would like to give it a try. If you are interested, please pay us a visit one Tuesday evening, there is no obligation to learn.
Somewhat tongue in cheek, our second need is to have a means of getting up into the tower which avoids using the spiral staircase. There are 30 steps up to the tower and unfortunately 23 of these use a narrow, spiral staircase. These stairs probably date from medieval times and wind in the usual clockwise direction from below. This type of spiral allegedly placed attacking, right-handed swordsmen, ascending the stairs, at a disadvantage. In the 21st century those it places at a disadvantage are the older ringers who for reasons of stiffer knees and ankles, poorer eyesight and balance, middle age spread and lack of fitness find climbing them the most difficult part of tower bell ringing.
So our response to the survey may also include a plea for innovative ways of getting up to the tower ringing room using these stairs or perhaps some alternative method of ascent and descent. However, if you can climb 30 stairs, then we are always willing to welcome new recruits to train and become part of our team. You do not have to be strong or musical. You do have to be around 12 years of age but there is no upper age limit. A sense of timing, a sense of humour and a tolerance of those who climb stairs slowly will also help!
January / February - Reflecting on 2016 and Anticipating Celebrations in 2018.
At this time of year the bell ringers have been reflecting on the year past and anticipating years to come. Recent events concerning York Minster and its team of bell ringers has given the team in our tower cause to reflect and be grateful for our own role and relationships at All Saints, Bingley. We have always been made to feel both a valued and an integral part of the church and its wider community.
Our longest serving bell ringer cannot remember a time when we were not highly valued by the vicars who have served the church over the years or the church officers, congregation and other volunteers involved with the church. We are very grateful for this level of respect and inclusion in the church’s activities. In 2016 we were pleased to be asked to ring for the induction of the new vicar and very pleased that he has been able to join us at our AGM and also visit a practice session and enjoy a post-practice drink with us in the local pub.
Bell-ringing is an ancient occupation serving a town’s formal Christian worship, and helping to mark occasions such as weddings, funerals and other church and national occasions. Looking back over last year, 2016 saw us involved in several town and community occasions, demonstrating that we practice a skill which is embedded in a broader culture, history and community. The sound of the bells can be heard over the town and surrounding areas and this has been important in the last year when we have rung the bells, on the community's behalf to mark; The Centenary of the Beginning of the Battle of the Somme, National Heritage Weekend, The 200th Anniversary of the Completion of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
In 2017 we hope to find funding for some maintenance and enhancement of the tower bells as they ring for various church and community events over the year. However, we are also anticipating 2018, when the bells of All Saints will have been pealing for 250 years and which we intend to celebrate in a significant but appropriate manner when the time comes.