December - Local Ringer Moves on to York Minster
A little over two months ago we said goodbye and good luck to a regular visitor and excellent supporter of our tower’s ringing activities. Nathan is a ringer at St Oswald’s in Guiseley but also regularly joined us for practices, Sunday ringing and wedding ringing in Bingley. Nathan is now studying at York University and he admits that his choice of university was influenced by bell ringing. Like many young ringers, Nathan learned bell ringing quickly and very soon progressed to complex ringing with other young people and teams from many local towers. Nathan’s bell ringing ambition was to become a member of the elite team of ringers who ring the bells of York Minister. Less than two months after arriving in York he has succeeded in doing so and we are tremendously proud of him and his ringing skills.
As an accepted member of the bell ringing community in York, Nathan arranged for the Bingley Ringers to visit York for a day trip. So in early November we rang the bells of St Wilfrid’s, St Olave’s, and St Lawrence’s in York, completing the outing with an excellent pub meal at the Rose and Crown Inn. Nathan’s studying and bell ringing in York are both very successful but it also seems he is not a bad judge of the local hostelries either!
November - Quarter Peal Fortnight
Every November the western branch of the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers nominates a two week period when as many towers in the branch as possible, are encouraged to ring as many quarter peals as possible. The branch covers some 70 towers but not all have sufficient members to do this, however some have larger numbers of ringers who may ring quarter peals both at their own towers and as visitors in other towers.
A quarter peal, as the name suggests in one fourth of a full peal and is approximately 45 minutes of non-stop ringing of a specific method, without any of the ringers making a single mistake and without repetition. (Archers’ fans may remember a quarter peal being rung to commemorate Nigel Pargetter’s death). At All Saints we have 8 bells and so methods and quarter peals may be rung here on 6 or 8 bells. The ringers always start the method in rounds, i.e. the bells ringing in order from the lightest to the heaviest. A method is then begun. A performance of 1250 changes by each of our 8 bell concurrently, in a specific numerical pattern, then makes a quarter peal. This is probably the origin for the phrase 'ringing the changes'.
A quarter peal gives each ringer the chance to confirm their knowledge of a particular method, thereby extending their ability and enjoying a sense of achievement. This is quite easy to say in theory but in practice it requires calm nerves, co-operative team work, a good deal of physical stamina and complete mental concentration to achieve. So, if you should notice the Bingley church bells, or other local church bells, ringing for prolonged amounts of time in late November, please spare a thought and a good wish for the ringers involved in such an effort!
Two successful quarter peals were rung at Bingley during quarter peal fortnight. Both quarters were a first for at
least one of our ringers and Claire, Ashleigh, Gary and Jane were photographed proudly displaying certificates marking their success. Certificates were awarded at the Western Branch’s Quiz and Competition Night which marks the end of the quarter peal fortnight.
Unfortunately, Bingley were less successful in quizzing and in the competition to dress up a ringer as Santa Claus, using just newspaper. No firsts here, but our photo shows Bingley ringer Santa Bob, modelling his paper Father Christmas outfit!
Well done Bob, at least you can say you've now been published.
October - Simulated Ringing Practices
This month’s news probably marks the end of the summer holiday season and as the autumn approaches and fewer ringers are away on holiday our practices settle down and become more consistently attended. We are now able to add an extra monthly practice on a Saturday morning for ourselves and friends from other towers. Our regular Tuesday night practices are on the bells with the clappers free so ringing can be heard in and around the town. However, our Saturday practices are “silent practices”. We are able to practice more complex ringing and become familiar with them before going public and letting the bells ring out. To do this we use a ringing simulator. The clappers of the bells are tied up so they cannot strike and electronic sensors placed on the bell frame pick up the rotation of the bell, an electronically simulated sound is then heard, through a computer, in the ringing chamber. Anyone standing outside the church would be unaware we were practicing unless their hearing was acute enough to hear the creaking of ropes and the sound of bells rotating on the wooden frame.
In this division of practices we hope we are keeping faith with the considerateness of our immediate neighbours. Tuesday practices have been long established and these enable us to practice and hear the actual bells as they ring out. This is necessary because, like most older rings of bells, at least one of ours is “odd struck” and also ringers need to be familiar with the actual sound of each bell. The simulator however, gives our neighbours more peaceful Saturday mornings and allows us to practice more complex methods, mistakes and all, without offending the ears or the patience of the local residents!
August / September - Ringing the Bells In Memoriam – A request.
The 4th August this year marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. As this date approached, bell ringers who are members of the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers were asked to research any bell ringers from their home towers who had given their lives during the great war of 1914 -1918. As a mark of ongoing respect and to honour their sacrifice, the intention was to ring quarter peals (45 minutes non-stop ringing) on the 100th anniversary of their deaths. Happily, for the bell ringers who rang in Bingley in that period, our archivist and historian could find no evidence that any bell ringer lost his life in the war.
We are likely to be ringing a quarter peal on or around 1st July 2016, as this marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the battle of the Somme in which 1,770 Bradford Pals lost their lives.
On further reflection however, we do know from Joe Maiden’s book (2007) that 244 men from Bingley did make this greatest of sacrifices during the war. We therefore wonder if any members of the current congregation at All Saints’ Church, would like to contact us, if they had relatives from Bingley, for whom they would like us to ring a quarter peal on the 100th anniversary of their death in WWI. It seems to us that to commemorate the anniversaries of the deaths of local men, at points over the coming years, would give greater meaning to the act of remembrance. It may help us to reflect that local men, whose relatives remain local to this day, enlisted from our parish and were willing to pay the ultimate price for the futures we enjoy today.
June / July - Bingley Bell Ringers in Competition
Every year in June a “Striking Competition” is arranged by the regional branch of the Bell Ringers’ Association. In the 19th century such competitions were taken very seriously, often with prizes of money, barrels of ale or other alcohol, shields and cups at stake. Teams of male ringers from individual towers would compete, using their best ringers to undertake a piece of continuous ringing to be rung “Steady and True”, that is with no mistakes and with even and rhythmic spacing of each bell as it struck in relation to the other bells.
Our most experienced bell ringers took part in this year’s competition on the 14th June, competing against nine other teams. The team rang the method Stedman Doubles but were not able to manage the steady and true as well as they would have liked. The competition took place at Idle this year and unfortunately, on less familiar bells, our team did not finish – a mistake in the ringing having been made. A team from Brighouse won the day and the competition shield was awarded to them to be engraved with their success. However, all was not lost for our team who did return to the tower with some honours.
Bell ringing in the 21st century is now much more of a hobby, interest or some would say obsession. It is no longer a paid community role. There are more lady ringers, young ringers and ringers’ families involved in the activity than in past centuries and so the Striking Competition has become a wider social event. Food and drink is served and other competitions have evolved. This year the host ringers from Idle introduced the “Idle Pentathlon”, a team competition consisting of pool, table tennis, splat the rat, tin can alley and darts. I am pleased to report that our ringers won the Pentathlon showing focused skills in table tennis and darts in particular and redeeming themselves after less well focused ringing! As ever, in bell ringing and in other team sports, winner or loser, it is the taking part with enjoyment and team spirit that is important.
A final note – the bell ringers did bring a prize of alcohol back to the tower – it was won in the raffle!
May - Spare a Thought for our New Learner.
We make every effort to attract new ringers through our website and through a regular advert in the “Bingley Matters Free Magazine”. We need to ensure the bells in Bingley keep ringing in the future. We are really pleased that in the last month we have a new beginner, who is overcoming her nerves in starting to learn to handle a bell. On our beginner’s first visit to the tower she just watched us ring and had one pull on the bell rope while Jane, our Tower Captain, controlled the rope and actually rang the bell. Our beginner’s impression after that first visit was “I never guessed it was so complicated!” However, she has persevered and she is now meeting our Tower Captain 30 minutes before our practice begins. The clapper of one bell is tied up and our beginner practices pulling the rope with Jane, first on alternate strokes and then on both strokes. In this way the bell does not ring but the beginner can get a feel of the weight and flight of the bell and the behaviour of the rope. All of us, as beginners, have experienced the sudden and frightening pull on the rope as the whole weight of the bell rotates on its wheel and takes the rope up with it. Many of us had a couple of rope burns or blisters, in our early days, to bear witness to this! Both the beginner and the Tower Captain need strong nerves to go through this very early learning stage.
Absolute beginners’ practice takes place early, because learning to handle a bell is difficult in itself, without doing it with a dozen more experienced ringers watching.
Bell ringing, like learning any new skill feels impossible to conquer at first, but competence and confidence soon come with sticking at it. In the meantime, please spare a thought for our newest ringer and wish her well as she starts to notice how much progress she is making and how much she is growing in confidence and enjoying her new skill.
April - Bingley Bell Ringers’ Annual Weekend Trip - The Severn Valley
This was the 6th annual weekend trip for Bingley Bell Ringers. Year on year the trips have got more varied, interesting, challenging and unusual. This year 20 ringers and two non ringing partners based ourselves in Kidderminster and enjoyed ringing at or visiting 12 towers over the weekend.
Several churches and their towers in the Severn Valley are built on high ground above the villages they serve, offering great views across the Severn Valley while avoiding the flood plain. This was the case with St Peter’s, Kinver 8 (12-2-24), St John’s, Wolverley 8 (9-2-10), St Bartholomew’s, Areley Kings 6 (8-1-3), St Peter’s, Upper Areley 6 (8-1-23) and St Mary’s, Bridgnorth 8 (8-2-4). Towers ranged from the very light but pleasant 6 at St. Peter’s , Cookley (5-2-16) to the beautiful sounding 12 at St Mary and All Saints, Kidderminster (25-2-0) where we rang with the local team before the Sunday Service. Most difficult to handle and unfortunately the least pleasant sounding were the 8 at St Mary’s, Enville (14-3-3). Most difficult to access were the 6 bells of St. Mary’s, Alveley (10-1-13) the ringing chamber being located up a double height, open, spiral staircase which challenged those with vertigo, along with those with hips wider than a size 16 or of a height above 5 ft.! St. Anne’s, Bewdley 8 (15-2-23) at the top and centre of the town were a lovely ring with a wonderful sway to the tower! The bells at St. James, Hartlebury 8 (17-2-22) and St Michael’s, Elmley Lovett 8 (9-3-0) both rang well and provided a contrast in weight and sound at the end of a long Saturday of ringing.
While the majority of ringers on the trip were from Bingley we could not have rung the variety of challenging methods we did without the expertise of friends from other towers – Idle, Rochdale, New Hey, Guiseley, London and the West Midlands. At the various towers we rang Plain Bob Methods but also Stedman Triples, St Clements and Cambridge Major. In the six bell towers, Bingley Surprise was also attempted with increasing success. This was all under the close supervision of our tower captain, Jane who worked hard all weekend, keeping us in order, ensuring quality ringing from us as guests in others’ towers and always making sure everyone was able to ring comfortably and confidently. Our only mix up, covering Stedman Doubles using the treble, occurred when Jane’s arrival at one of the towers was delayed and we started without her – sorry Jane!
We must thank Solna, our social secretary for organising a very successful trip. Her attention to fine detail, logistical planning and delegation of tasks to other Bingley ringers meant that in addition to ringing bells at 12 towers over the weekend we also managed to: picnic by the canal, play skittles and drink beer in a traditional skittle alley, enjoy a pub meal by the river and acknowledge a ringer’s birthday in the “Frankie and Benny’s Restaurant Way” with the whole restaurant joining in raucous choruses of Happy Birthday and Congratulations! We had a trip on the Severn Valley Steam Railway where we were able to view the wonderful scenery, traditional steam engines and carriages and more unusually elephants and rhinoceri, from the train. We listened to the Grand National on the radio, in the churchyard at Hartlebury, while drinking tea, eating hot cross buns and waiting for an over-running wedding to finish. Our sweepstake winner was very pleased to have backed the 25-1 winner and scoop the pot.
Overall we had a most enjoyable weekend away with a wonderful mixture of everything from the familiar and expected to the new and totally unpredictable. Year on year the trips have definitely got more varied, interesting, challenging and unusual. Roll on next year!
March - The Americans are Coming
Over the last couple of weeks Bingley Tower Bell Ringers have received two requests from America to either ring our tower bells or have them rung for a special occasion. The special occasion is for a family from America who wish to hear the tower bells rung in the church where their ancestors were christened, married and were buried. The other request is for a group of American bell ringers to have the opportunity to ring our bells while they are on a tour of the area from America.
Why come so far just to ring church bells you may ask?
Bell ringing, or change ringing, where the bell rotates on a wheel almost through a full circle, has been practised since the 16th century in Britain and has changed very little since then. There are bells in many churches throughout the world, but the ringing of bells on rotating wheels while the norm in Great Britain, is far less common in other countries, where bells are more often just tolled rather than rotated. There are a total of over 5,000 bell towers in the British Isles, but only approximately 500 bell towers, like them, spread across the rest of the world. These towers are usually in countries which the British have colonised at some time in the past. Change ringing, like cricket, was an activity the British brought with them as they imported their culture and settled abroad.
So the answer is that while our American “cousins” have some opportunity to ring church bells in our former colony, there is not the wealth of opportunity to ring church bells, in as many towers, as there is here in Britain. In the Aire Valley alone they will be able to ring bells in at least eight different towers –an embarrassment of riches for them but something we take for granted.
So should you happen to hear the Bingley bells ringing out on a Monday morning in early April, you will know that the Americans who were coming have actually arrived, they are welcome and we wish them much pleasure in ringing our tower bells.
UPDATE: What lovely people our American friends were. Here's a video of us ringing for the occasion.
February - "For the Augmentation of the Ringers' Salaries" Foxcroft Memorial
Henry Dickinson, a bell ringer for over 60 years, was remembered in his daughter’s will, with a bequest to the church.
The Foxcroft Memorial, which can be seen above the door as you exit the church, bequeathed money “For the Augmentation of the Ringers’ Salaries and the Upkeep of the Bells”.
A quarterly amount is paid into the ringers’ account, from this bequest, to this day. Some of this amount, along with funds raised by others means, is used to make a contribution to the bell ringers’ annual dinner. Tower bell ringing in the 21st century is a voluntary, unpaid activity, done for enjoyment, exercise and a sense of individual and joint achievement. A salary is not paid but by the same token rigid demands or rules cannot be applied to present day bell ringers as they were in Henry’s day.
The bell ringers’ annual dinner always takes place on the last Friday of January, for reasons which relate to avoiding the Christmas rush. There are heavier ringing demands over the Christmas period, so a meal at this time is avoided and there is a greater likelihood of getting a better deal, with less rushed service, in local restaurants in January.
This year 22 people, including 14 ringers and 8 partners or friends from other towers had a wonderful meal at the Peasehill House Restaurant in Yeadon. The food choices were good and the restaurant staff coped well in serving such a large group in jovial mood. For the Bingley ringers such an excellent meal, subsidised partly by the bequest, is a treat and a small reward for a willing contribution to church life. It is also an interesting piece of continuity for us, in that 21st century ringers are still benefitting from money left in remembrance of a ringer born in the 18th century, so thank you for your commitment over 60+ years Henry!
January - Bell Ringers and the New Year
Some bell towers maintain a tradition of ringing in the New Year at midnight as the old year turns to a new one. This is not a tradition we have followed in Bingley. While this is in part out of consideration for local residents, it is also difficult to get enough ringers (8) to commit to ringing at this time of night. It would be great to imply that we are all “party animals” out partying until the small hours, not true! A more realistic reason is a reflection on the age profile of the Bingley Bell Ringers, many of whom prefer to be at home to welcome the New Year, then plod upstairs to bed, not up the tower to ring bells!
The age profile of bell ringers is a cause for reflection in some towers. We have regular ringers in every age bracket from teens to those in their 80s. Bell ringing is excellent exercise for the body and the mind and offers companionship, friendship and a sense of belonging and purpose as part of a team, whatever age bracket one falls into. However, our young adults often leave us to join university teams, those who are parents of young children find their time commitments restricting and the over 60’s can find the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” as knees and hips resist climbing stairs and other joint problems make flexible wrists and shoulders a memory from the past! So we always need to keep refreshing and growing the team.
This New Year, as in years past, we hope that new recruits will be encouraged to give bell ringing a try and accept our invitation to visit us on a practice night to see what it is all about. Perhaps you are just curious, or have made a new year’s resolution to try a new hobby or, it is one of the things on your “bucket list”. You do not have to be strong or musical. You do have to be available to ring on most Sundays, be aged 12+ with no upper age limit, and have a sense of timing and a sense of humour! If you are interested, please pay us a visit, there is no obligation to learn. We all look forward to meeting new people in 2014.