News 2017

December - Catching Ringers Young and Keeping Them.

This month we have been approached by a young person of 14 years of age who is asking to learn to ring the bells as part of activities in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.  This age is ideal for starting to learn this complicated but rewarding skill.  On first meeting this young person seems young and fit, keen and committed.  We hope this teenager will enjoy the learning experience and continue to ring bells for many years to come, well beyond completing the award. 

This led to a discussion among the ringers about how those who have been ringing since their youth were originally attracted to the pastime.  It would appear that we have ringers who progressed from the choir to the tower as their voices broke; ringers who started ringing as part of Girl Guide or Scout activities; ringers who began ringing from the schools they attended, because they were associated with a particular church and its tower and also ringers who first came with friends, parents or grandparents, who themselves were already ringers.  Some ringers said it was the fascination of handling and controlling the heavy industrial archaeology and engineering that is present in all rings of bells.

What kept these teenage ringers ringing?   It seems it was and is the sense of progress and confidence that goes on throughout a ringer’s career.  Ringers also mentioned being involved in a team activity which requires both physical and mental skills and mastering something which is more unusual than the team sports offered in school.  Many enjoyed the mastery of the number patterns and the sequences involved in method ringing.

It is really pleasing that so much was made in the discussion of this noble craft and the noble skills involved for the benefit of the church congregation and the local community.  Perhaps some did just also mention the Christmas and other social events, pizza and curry nights, regular visits to the pub and payment for wedding ringing as motivators of a sort as well.

Ann Cossavella

November - Off To Loughborough Like The Clappers

The individual bell ringers who were selected to ring for the wedding on Friday 8th September 2017, were specifically and unusually chosen for their youth, fitness and strength.  This was because immediately after the wedding they were needed to climb into the belfry and take out seven of the eight clappers from the bells and dismantle two roller boxes.

These heavy items had to be carried down the flights of stairs and placed in the car ready to be delivered to Taylor’s Bell Foundry in Loughborough.  Here, they were being refurbished thanks to the generous grants given by Bingley Town Council and the Yorkshire Association Bell Repair Fund.  The majority of the clappers had been in continuous use for over 80 years, the exception being bell five whose clapper snapped during ringing for a wedding some five years ago and had to be replaced immediately.  

This refurbishment took a week and the clappers were back in Bingley in time for the Tuesday evening practice.  The evening was spent by the “heavy gang” once again climbing up to the belfry, carrying the renewed clappers and parts, they then spent about two hours crawling under the bells replacing and centring the clappers, fitting and re-threading the roller boxes and fitting new, self-greasing grommets on all the clapper heads.  The dirty and greasy job was completed just before 9.00 pm, allowing us just enough time to do five minutes ringing to check the refit was correct. 

Then off to the pub for a well-earned pint or two!

We hope the congregation and local community can hear the difference this has made.  We ringers think that the bells now handle much more smoothly and evenly and that the tone of the bells is far softer and much pleasanter to the ear.

It was very appropriate that the first full ring of the bells was for the next wedding on Saturday 23rd September 2017, especially because this was for the wedding of an ex-ringer, whose father continues to ring regularly at All Saints.

Ann Cossavella

October - A Successful Banner…. but oh the myths!

We have been displaying a banner on the church railings for about three months, in the hope of attracting some interest in ringing.  This has been very successful and to date we have had about 12 people come up the tower attracted by the banner.  Most have come just for a look, but one person has shown a real interest in ringing and has attended some ringing practices.  We are also waiting for a little boy, who came with his mum, to put on a few inches and a few years - he was very keen, but unfortunately too small and too light for our bells at present.

Those new to bell ringing always bring with them the same myths gleaned from TV, especially the one about monks swinging on bell ropes, beloved in Christmas Cards, comedy and advertisements.  Our answer to this is always tolerant – we see the humour, but if you ever see anyone swinging on a rope, they are not real ringers.  Don’t believe everything you see on TV!  (Website Editors Note: Fake News as Mr Trump would say).  And if you should ever come across a real bell rope, don’t be tempted to swing on it, or even pull it.  If you don’t know what you are doing, bells can be dangerous.

The other common myth is about being taken up by the rope.  It can happen, but it is so rare that most ringers have never seen it, let alone done it.  The skill in ringing is learning exactly how hard to pull and exactly when to hold or let go of the rope. (Website Editors note: For those who have ever ridden a horse, it's a bit like feeling the horse through the reigns).  Learning to handle a bell from the start is a very gradual process, very closely supervised by experience ringers.  There is a lot more to ringing than ‘pulling a rope’.  To control a bell requires considerable skill, and change ringing adds an extra layer of mental skill that can provide endless fascination.  Ringers often get hooked on it.  So the response to questions about the rope taking you up is that, if properly handled, a bell is perfectly safe, just like any other heavy equipment, but again, if you don’t know what you are doing, bells can be dangerous.

So to keep the bells of All Saints ringing we are very happy to welcome those who want to have a go under close and experienced supervision, and are of course very happy to continue myth busting as part of our range of skills as bell ringers! 

Ann Cossavella

September - Farewell to Tower and Hand Bell Ringer- John Nixon

In late summer 2015 a new person appeared, without announcement, at a Tuesday night practice.  Little did we know then how significant a part of the ringing teams John Nixon would become, nor did we foresee how fond we would all become of him or how soon we would be saying our sad farewells following his death in early July this year.  John was a very experienced ringer and brought over 63 years of ringing experience with him.  John came that evening to ring tower bells, but by the end of the evening, and after a visit to the pub, we also found out he rang hand bells.  So the very next evening, there he was at his first hand bell practice!  We were very grateful for his experience and commitment both as a tower bell ringer and as a hand bell ringer.

In just short of two years John supported the teams ringing for Sunday Services, weddings and other community events.  One of his greatest pleasures was conducting the “Firing of the Bells” in October 2016 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the opening of the Leeds Liverpool Canal.  This enabled John to combine two of his greatest interests; bell ringing and Canal and River Trust involvement.  John’s retirement meant he was no longer involved in active church ministry and so he was also able to be a great support to the Hand Bell Team as they often rang during weekday afternoons to entertain people at various local retirement and care homes.

John had a confident and very pleasant character and was never backward in encouraging ringers to push the boundaries of what they were capable of in bell ringing terms.  He also very quickly became involved in the social side of bell ringing life, be that tower or hand bells.  John’s interests often matched that of other retired male ringers in the tower and their anecdotes of older men misbehaving on various “Industrial Archaeology” jaunts, often entertained us in the pub after ringing practice.

We felt it very fitting that not only did John’s funeral include a fulfilment of his wish for the tenor bell to be rung 79 times as his coffin was brought into All Saints; that is once for each year of his life, but it also included the theme tune from “Last of the Summer Wine”, enabling us to smile and remember the lighter side of our too brief relationship with him.  He will be missed and remembered by both the tower and hand bell teams at All Saints.

Ann Cossavella and Solna Burnham

July / August - A Complaint from the Vicar and A New Banner

On the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday Weekend, the bell ringers received a complaint from the vicar!  Martyn met us as we were leaving the bell tower and as he was going into church to prepare for the 10.30am service.  The time was 10.20am.  He demanded to know why we were short changing the congregation and finishing ringing early, even suggesting we should go back up the tower and give full value for money!  This was completely “tongue in cheek”, Martyn is and has always been tremendously supportive of the ringers.  However, he was correct, we did finish early and he understood that it was because we had only five ringers that morning, one of whom had to leave early in order to attend church in another parish.  Ringing of for bells sounds awful so we did stop early.

This highlights that during holiday periods we do find we are short of ringers for services, weddings, practices and other events.  We are again looking to recruit new ringers and members of the congregation will have noticed that we are now displaying a banner on the church railings, facing the main road in the hope of attracting some interest.

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 available to ring on most Sundays and aged over 12 years for height and weight reasons. There is no upper age limit for ringers but having a sense of timing and a sense of humour would be an advantage! 

If you are interested, or anyone you know has always wanted to have a go at bell ringing, then please pay us a visit one Tuesday, there is no obligation to learn.  Contact details are below.  After all we do not want to receive any more complaints from the vicar – however supportive and light-hearted!

Ann Cossavella

June - The Bell Ringers Assemble And The Excitements of Durham Cathedral

The first weekend in May was our annual ringing trip and this year we spent the weekend ringing church bells in and around Durham, Consett and Chester Le Street.  Nine Bingley ringers and eight friends from other local towers all looked forward with great excitement to the highlight of this trip, which was being allowed to ring the bells of Durham Cathedral before their Sunday morning service.  Many cathedrals in England have excellent, usually quite heavy, rings of bells, often having ten or 12 bells as opposed to the eight we ring at All Saints.  Durham Cathedral has ten bells with the heaviest weighing 28cwt, exactly twice as heavy as our own heaviest bell!  In addition Durham has the second highest bell tower in the country with only Liverpool Cathedral’s standing higher.  We arrived allowing ourselves extra time to climb the 244 stairs to the bell tower’s ringing room.  However, on arrival we found the Cathedral was closed to visitors and had extra security both around the Cathedral Close and inside a very quiet, dark and eerie cathedral, with just the choir stalls lit for a morning service.  

We showed our credentials and were welcomed and escorted inside, past very non- religious looking statues, huge urns, suspended barrage balloons, oddly placed balustrades and acres of rigging and cables for camera and lighting equipment.  Not what we had anticipated at all!  We soon learned that over the next few days the Cathedral was to be used as a set for a new Marvel Avengers’ movie  - “Avengers: Infinity War” and big names in the film world like Benedict Cumberbatch , Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson , Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth and Zoe Saldana were likely to be in the cathedral in the coming week.  Hence the very unusual set up in this very famous place of worship.

We did climb the stairs and ring the bells for the service. We felt a real sense of achievement in ringing these big bells and left with a far greater sense of excitement than we could have possibly anticipated.  We now look forward to the release of this particular film, having been permitted to see one of its sets at first hand. 

Ann Cossavella

May - Bell Ringers versus the Clock Winding Mechanism

In ringing church bells it is important to listen both to your own bell and to all the other bells.  The ability to place one’s bell in the right place by listening to it and making adjustments until it is striking correctly relative to the other bells, contributes to the balanced sound and rhythm of all pieces of ringing.  Over the last month the bell ringers’ listening has been disrupted by the clock.

All Saints' church clock was made in 1856 by the firm of William Potts of Leeds but was designed by Edmund Beckett, the first Lord Grimthorpe.  He had already designed the clock for Ilkley Parish Church and three years later was to design the clock in the Westminster clock tower, the mechanism of which strikes Big Ben!  Our clock, at 160+ years old, is still going strong with the clock’s winding mechanisms passing through the ringing chamber.  However, over the last month ringing has been made increasingly difficult by the clock’s winding mechanism which has developed a far wider and more varied range of whirring, buzzing and grinding sounds than usual.  This intrudes on the ringing to such an extent that the ringers now have to stop ringing to let the clock finish its rewind, or stop it rewinding, in order to continue ringing.  A bit of a tussle between ringers and winding mechanism!  In recent weeks it has become apparent that the clock winding mechanism needs significant repair to keep the clock running.  We are pleased that Karl Grave and Martyn are looking into this.

Hopefully the bell ringers and the clock mechanism will soon be getting on with one another again, just as well as they have done over the previous 160 years.  

Ann Cossavella

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.

Ann Cossavella

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!

Ann Cossavella

January / February - Reflecting on 2016 and Anticipating Celebrations in 2018.

Athis 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. 

Ann Cossavella