December - One Christmas Card not 150!
The bell ringers have over the years developed a tradition of their own regarding the exchange of Christmas Cards.
There are 16 bell ringers registered at All Saints Tower. We are a friendly team and always wish one another well in all the seasons of the year. However, several years ago we began to question the exchanging of Christmas Cards between us. It is pleasant to give and receive cards, but these would in total amount to almost 150 cards exchanged between us as individuals. We thought there was a better and more useful way to wish one another the compliments of the season. So now we all sign one card which is kept in the tower and at the same time, those who wish, can pop the money they would have spent on cards into a rather unusual penguin money box, kept in the tower (the penguin is dressed seasonally)!
In the first week of the New Year this is then emptied and the cash collected donated to a local charity. The amount is usually between £50 and £100. We never decide which charity before the event but wait and see what springs to mind over the Christmas Season. Curiously, something always suggests itself. So, last year the obvious recipient was the Bingley Flood Relief Group. In previous years charities have included Manorlands, Leeds General Infirmary, the local Parkinson’s Group, St Ives Disabled Unit and the Boxing Day Tsunami Fund. All related to some recent experience the bell ringers have had in their lives.
We believe this is a more productive way of exchanging greetings, we can all read and sign the one card in the tower and of course at the end of the festive season that one card is always placed in the recycling bin!
November - Glass Towers and Secret Bunkers.
In late September we went on a weekend ringing trip to Essex. This tour was a nostalgic return to the area for Bob, one of our ringers, who learned to ring here over 50 years ago. Over the weekend we ate and drank in three pubs, rang the bells in ten different bell towers, stayed in a Premier Inn and visited a Secret Nuclear Bunker.
While packing in a great deal between Friday and Sunday lunchtime, the best and most unusual ringing experience for most of us was in Basildon, where we rang in the famous, town centre, glass tower, thus fulfilling a long held ringing ambition for many. The Glass Bell Tower of St Martin of Tours in Basildon was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in March 1999. The 30m high glass and steel bell tower stands at the west end of St Martin's Church and is on Basildon’s shopping precinct. All sides of the tower are glass and it contains three floors in total. We rang the bells on Saturday afternoon and many shoppers stopped to listen and watch. For those standing outside it is fascinating to be able to see the bells rotating at the higher level of the tower as they observe the ringers ringing in the middle level of the tower. This was the most public display of bell ringing many of us have ever given.
In contrast at the end of the weekend some members of the group visited Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker. This is a massive, secret, underground, cold war, nuclear bunker now open to tourists but built for local dignitaries if a nuclear war had broken out.
Our thanks go to Bob for managing in one weekend both to put us on very public display and show us the very secret places in his home county of Essex.
October - The Bell Ringers Noisy Role in the Bingley Bi-Centenary Canal Festival.
On 16th October 2016 the Leeds Liverpool Canal Society's floating museum Kennet, will be passing through Bingley Five Rise Locks accompanied by a flotilla of boats. This is to celebrate the first navigation of the whole canal in 1816. There will be a celebratory festival in Bingley and on the canal side. There has been tradition of ringing the church bells to celebrate significant events on the canal. The Bingley bells were rung in March 1774 to celebrate the first navigation of the 5 Rise Locks and the bells of Heapy, near Blackburn rang, along with cannon fire, to celebrate the first navigation of the whole canal in 1816.
Bingley Bell ringers have been asked to ring the bells to celebrate the 200th anniversary. As it is not safe or possible to fire cannon in the vicinity, we have been asked to “fire the bells” in order to imitate cannon fire as the Kennet arrives at the 5 Rise locks.
On the day we will do some celebratory ringing but as the Kennet arrives we will “fire the bells” to replicate cannon fire. 'Firing' means to ring all the bells simultaneously, not in rounds, but all at once. The effect is to sound one very loud crash of the bells several times, and thus, sound like cannon fire. Unfortunately, this does take some practice, as it is contrary to normal ringing and does not come naturally to bell ringers. We will need to practice this at our regular practice on the 11th October and do hope that church goers and local residents will be tolerant of this one-off event and in being so, consider themselves contributing to this significant anniversary celebration. Thank you.
Heritage Day Extra
As you will have read in previous editions we took part in the challenge made by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to open up 500 of England’s bell towers in September.
We took advantage of the publicity to not only open the tower, but also to put on a display about the history of the Bingley Bells dating back to the 1600s, tell the history of the tower and introduce visitors to some of the bell ringers who have rung the bells over the centuries. We also told the history of hand bells, their rediscovery and restoration over the past six years.
The trial run was on Wednesday 7th September when 20 members of the church ladies group joined us at our regular handbell practice, A number of them ‘had a go’ at handbell ringing and some also ventured up the tower - having been previously fortified by drinks and nibbles.
The tower was officially opened to visitors on the afternoons of Friday 9th, Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September. The weather was kind to us and we had a steady flow of visitors over the three days. Some were local having been attracted by our flyers and others who had heard of the event in the press, on social media or on the radio came from further afield. Because we were one of the few events taking place on the Friday we had our photographs taken and appeared in the weekend edition of the T & A.
People enjoyed the handbell demonstrations and tours of the tower and most had a go either on mobile bell or at tune ringing on the bells and chimes. Refreshments were provided by the congregation in aid of the Church Path Project which also benefited from the sale of raffle tickets, plants and crafts.
We shall have to wait however to see if the publicity brings forward any new recruits at our practices. Don’t forget though if you missed the week end you are always welcome in the tower on Tuesday evenings or in the vestry for handbells on Mondays or Wednesdays even if it is just to see what goes on with no commitment to come back!
Ann Cossavella & Solna Burnham
September - We have taken the Challenge. Please come and join us.
Planning, preparation, cleaning, research, displays, practice sessions, banners, balloons and flyers have all been part of our bell ringing activities during the Summer months. As Connect 4 readers will have seen last month we are taking part in the Heritage Open Days and are part of the challenge made by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to open up 500 of England’s bell towers this September.
We will be open to visitors between 2pm and 4pm on Friday 9th, Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September 2016.
This will be an open event for all ages to visit the bell tower, have a go on a mobile bell, see bell ringing demonstrations and have a go at hand bell tune ringing. We intend to put on a display about the history of the Bingley Bells dating back to the 1600's, tell the history of the tower and introduce you to some of the bell ringers who have rung the bells over the centuries. We will also be telling the history of hand bells and their rediscovery and restoration over the past 6 years.
No booking is required, there is no charge for the open day but refreshments will also be on sale in aid of the Church Path Project. Details and flyers about our tower event are available in church. More details about all Heritage Open Days are available on this link: https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting. We hope to provide plenty to learn about, to experience and to enjoy even if you have not got the legs to climb the bell tower – so please note the dates and come and join us.
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Ann Cossavella & Solna Burnham
June - Hoping for Eight New Bosses for the Bell Tower
As we mentioned earlier in the year a full inspection of the bells has been done by Taylors’ Bell Foundry and we have now received their very detailed report. This report will go to the PCC, but it is very reassuring that no major problems have been highlighted by the report and costs all relate to preventative and remedial work as opposed to big budget items.
One area covered concerns how our bell ropes go up from the ringing chamber to the bells above. This is through a giant wooden eyelet hole known as a “rope boss”, which is about the size of a dinner plate. The rope noise from ropes rubbing against these bosses is considerable and the friction caused over many, many years has caused each rope bosses to have several deep grooves. (This is similar to the rope grooves one sees on canal bridges from the days of horse drawn canal boats).
If a rope gets channelled into one of these grooves it can jump out of the ringer’s hands causing them to miss catching the rope as they ring. An incident which always makes a ringer’s heart skip a beat! It has been recommended that these bosses be replaced by modern, smooth turned, cast iron rope bosses at a cost of around £90 per rope boss. This month we will trial the sample rope boss which Taylors have sent to us. If, as we expect, we like it and there is less rope noise and less jumping of the rope, we will be considering how to raise the funds to have eight new bosses fitted, one for each rope. We will no doubt be reporting our progress on this in future Connect 5 articles. In the meantime if any uneven ringing is heard it may be down to a ringer’s rope getting “stuck in a groove”!
May - A Method Not A Tune for George.
It is a very common misunderstanding that church bells ring tunes, this is hardly ever the case on bells which are rung by turning through a full circle. Bells rung in this way can only change one place at a time and so it is not possible to ring tunes. Instead methods were devised, whereby the bells ring a numerical pattern, weaving in and out and dodging with one another – rather like a sound equivalent of May Pole dancing! Change ringing methods have names. A specific name is given by the first band to ring the method in a peal. Methods are often named after places, people, churches or saints, but they can be named after other things, flowers for example. Some names are quite whimsical, a series of methods have recently been named after pubs in the Market Town Taverns Group.
There are methods named “Bingley Surprise” and “All Saints” which we do ring in the tower on occasions. However, as April 23rd approaches, we are intending to join other bell ringers across the county in ringing one or else two separate but specifically named methods. Possibly, if we are good enough, even ringing the two methods spliced together, this is similar to performing a medley. The methods we are now beginning to practice in preparation are:
“St George” and “The Dragon” with the intention of ringing them in a quarter peal over the weekend on which St George’s Day falls. If successful, the Bingley Bell Ringers will have rung a quarter peal by the end of April, not for All Saints, but for one specific saint - England’s patron saint - George.
April - Winter’s Parting Shot Challenges the Ringers.
After a mild but wet winter we had begun to look forward to the spring, the wedding season and ringing the bells on lighter nights and in a less cold and drafty bell tower. However, the tail end of winter has seen us down on numbers due to ill health, hospitalisation and some broken or damaged limbs among the ringers. We have managed to continue to ring at least six bells for services and on practice nights, even though since Christmas we have totted up two broken arms, one sprained wrist, one damaged elbow and arthritic hands. Only one of these caused on church premises and duly recorded in the accident book, we hasten to add!
Church bell ringing is a team activity, which requires a consistent level of physical and mental fitness across the whole team and we are certainly feeling that this has seemed difficult to maintain over the past few weeks. Broken arms and significant hospital treatment have long recovery times and unfortunately we are now considering the viability of our annual weekend ringing trip in mid -April because of this. It is not a major problem and health is more important than pleasure trips, we can easily postpone our trip until later in the year. Fortunately, we have not been requested to ring the bells for any weddings until July, when everything should be back to normal. We are hoping that all our accidents and ill health have occurred in one batch early in the year, to leave us free for a spring and summer of good quality ringing from a numerous and fit band of ringers.
March - A Busy Start to 2016 for our Steeple Keeper.
One the responsibilities individual bell ringers take on in the tower is that of Steeple Keeper. This is a role which is vital for the maintenance of all aspects of the bells themselves and for the safety and well-being of the bell ringers.
Steeple Keepers have to be confident in their knowledge of all aspects of how the bells operate and also be physically fit enough to climb about in the bell chamber, balancing on the frame from which the bells hang and climbing down the 5+feet into the bell pits to examine the bells. We are fortunate in that our current Steeple Keeper can to all this and is also by profession an engineer. His annual inspection includes assessments of the frame, bells, headstocks, stays, clappers, sliders, pulleys, ropes and wheels.
Over the past month the Steeple Keeper has concentrated on the “stay” for each bell. These are vital safety features consisting of a precisely measured piece of hardwood, bespoke to each bell, which prevents it turning a complete circle when being rung or when standing waiting to be rung. Our Steeple Keeper has spent time adjusting these to ensure ringing is as safe and as smooth as possible, but the measurement and cutting of each “stay” is a precision task which is hard work when done manually. Fortunately, we have now discovered a company which can do this precision engineering with much greater ease using modern technology. We are keen to take this up, to purchase ready-made new stays and so ease the workload for our Steeple Keeper.
In the meantime although there are no obvious signs of immediate problems with the bells, we feel it is prudent to have them professionally examined by a bell foundry about every five years. So in addition this month a full inspection of the bells will be done by Taylors’ Bell Foundry. We hope their subsequent report will not increase the Steeple Keeper’s workload or raise any other issues requiring his time or additional money!
January / February - A Special Quarter Peal in 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. A quarter peal, as the name suggests is one fourth of a full peal and is approximately 45 minutes of non-stop ringing, without any of the ringers making a single mistake and without repetition. At All Saints we produced several successful quarter peals last year some involving up to 1250 changes by each of the eight bells, meaning 10,000 strokes in total are completed.
The quarter peal which was special to the Bingley Ringers was that which was rung to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of one of our ringing couples – Meredith and Penny Woode. Both have been members of the tower since the turn of the century and are qualified and experienced members, who have supported tower ringing in Bingley over the years and held posts of responsibility within the Bingley Team. Meredith rang in this quarter peal to celebrate his anniversary, as he had in other quarter peals over the fortnight.
Ringing quarter peals is a well-established way of celebrating major life events, but not the only way and Meredith and Penny also invited the whole team to celebrate with them by laying on a lovely spread of food and drink at the local pub after a Tuesday night’s practice. Everyone wished them a continuing happy, healthy and ever-lengthening married life together, building on the 18,262 days of married life they have already completed!