December - Bell Ringers Autumn Mini Trip
As has become something of a tradition at Bingley Tower, an autumn, half day ringing trip was arranged around some of our local towers. As usual an excellent pub meal was consumed in the evening after ringing. We visited three towers and had a leisurely one hour to ring at each before moving on. This ensured that all 17 ringers on the trip got a good chance to ring more than once and to have a go at a broad repertoire of ringing methods.
The towers visited were: St Peter’s, Birstall, All Saints, Batley and St James, Tong. On a sunny afternoon, autumn colours around these churches gave all the feel of the original villages of which they were the centre and focus in the past. In many towers, as at All Saints in Bingley, the bells can be quite old, with some originally cast in the 18th century. Something of a theme linked these three churches, in terms of reminding ringers about the pattern of bell maintenance and improvement which must be constantly borne in mind when responsible for such historical pieces of equipment.
At St Peter’s, Birstall we were warned that repairs were about to take place on one of the bells which had a loose and twisting clapper. At All Saints’, Batley one cannot enter the ringing chamber without noticing the lengthy piece of doggerel above the door which, named as a requiem, laments the removal and replacement of three bells from the tower in 1851. “Our last and final peal is done. Farewell, farewell. Ding Dong!” Fortunately, the opposite is true at St James’, Tong where the bells were restored, refurbished and rehung in 2012. For many of us on the trip this was the first opportunity to ring the bells at Tong and we felt it was a very pleasing experience.
Finally, all 17 ringers went on to an excellent and very hearty meal at the Greyhound Inn, Tong, where the service, food and company were all excellent and made the perfect end to an active, sunny, autumn afternoon.
Thanks to Solna Burnham for organising this trip, and to Jane Lynch for ensuring everyone was included in some excellent method ringing.
November - Remembrance and Ringing Half-Muffled
The Annual Remembrance Service and Parade will soon be upon us and the Tower Captain will be discussing with the church authorities the timing of our ringing for the service. Ringing for this service also involves our Steeple Keeper who will climb up among and under the individual bells ensuring they are half muffled for this piece of ringing. A muffle is a round, convex piece of leather, rather like the knee protectors worn by skate boarders. It is strapped on to one side of the clapper, of each bell, so that the bell sounds muffled as the clapper hits the bell on one stroke and rings clearly, metal to metal, on the alternate stroke. This produces a haunting, peaceful, echoing quality which ordinary ringing cannot match.
The current tradition is that half- muffled ringing can take place on three occasions: following the death of a ringer, respected parishioner or public figure, on Remembrance Sunday and on New Year’s Eve before midnight. Half - muffled ringing is therefore most associated with grief and loss by providing a very moving mark of respect, and in this way adding significantly and tunefully to an act of remembrance. For the ringers there is an additional calm within the ringing chamber as we ring. For those listening to the bells, we hope that in continuing this ringing tradition we are contributing to the community’s act of remembrance in a meaningful, moving and effective way.
October - Safety and a Call to Worship
I am fortunate enough to live less than 50 yards from the Church and had lived here for 10 years before I plucked up the courage to try bell ringing. In those 10 years there was an aspect of the ringing which always drew my attention.
As the time for the 10.30 am Sunday Service approached the bells would always ring, one after another, in a frantic manner getting faster and faster until they stopped completely with a final round of chiming. I reasoned in my ignorance, that this was the call to worship and that it was an auditory signal to worshippers to hurry up and get into church.
Now I am a bell ringer I realise the real reason is much more mundane and necessary in terms of safety. When not being rung bells hang in the tower with their open mouths facing downward. In this position if the ropes are accidentally pulled the bells would swing and chime but would not transfer their full weight of up to 14cwt, on to the rope. When bells are rung their mouths rest facing upwards, balanced on a piece of wood called a “STAY”. Bell ringers pull the rope to cause the bell to rotate through a full turn and all have spent time as learners getting used to the management of the rope in relation to controlling the rotation of the bell. Pulling the rope and not being prepared for the sudden weight of the bell could result in serious injury. Blisters and rope burns are the most common feature of learning bell handling, as opposed to shooting up in the air, clinging to a rope, so beloved of cartoonists and chocolate adverts!
At the end of any ringing session the bells have to be rung down, so that for safety’s sake they once again rest with their open mouths facing downward. At the end of the ringing session the bells are rung one after the other, but at the same time the ringer is gradually preventing them from turning a full circle, until they can eventually be stopped with their mouths facing downwards. The bells get closer and closer to one another in the distance they each swing. This makes them seem to be ringing faster and more frantically but this also produces a lovely tuneful hum as they descend.
So next time you are arriving for church service you may now be aware that the bells seem to be encouraging you to hurry up to worship but they are also being returned to the safer hanging position until the next time they need to be rung.