Bell Ringing

My Ringing Career

As you might expect, on these pages I have mentioned various churches ("towers") and their bells, and I wanted to give readers an idea of the size of each tower's largest ("tenor") bell. However, as not everyone will be familiar with the usual way of expressing the weight of a bell, I have simplified things by rounding them to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight. One hundredweight (1 cwt) is approximately equal to 50.8kg, and there are 20 cwt in a ton.

Highs and Lows

Published 17th December 2006

My eleventh year of ringing was most exceptional. Although the Young Ringers' Outings had come to an end I began to visit more new towers on my own, and my growing interest in Branch and Association affairs meant more meetings, many of which were accompanied by more new towers. It was largely due to my this that I decided to change my membership of the G&B. Until this time I had been "attached" to St James, Mangotsfield, but I was beginning to get itchy feet so I instead became an "unattached" member of the Bristol Rural Branch. The end result of all these visits was that I had added no less than 32 new towers to my list by 8th March 2004, bringing the grand total to 95.

I finally passed the century mark during the Bristol Rural Branch May Day Outing on 3rd May 2004, my hundredth (and most southerly) tower being the six bells of St John the Baptist, Colaton Raleigh in Devon (tenor 12 cwt). The first tower that day (my 99th), the six bells of St George, Clyst St George, Devon (tenor 10½ cwt) proved to be my most westerly, and the final one before we headed home (my 103rd) was the ten bells of St Nicholas in Sidmouth (tenor 18½ cwt), the town in which I had spent many a family holiday in my childhood. However, my enthusiasm for visiting seemed to dip sharply after that as my next two visits weren't until August, and then that was it until the following April. My thirteenth year (to 8th March 2006) added only another nine to the list, bringing the total to 114.

It was around this time that I was invited to become an official member of the band at St John the Baptist, Keynsham (tenor 25 cwt), on whose eight bells I had rung regularly as a visitor since the summer of 2005. Consequently, I am now also attached to Keynsham as a member of the Bath Branch of the Bath & Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers. The first Bath Branch Practice I attended as a member was to the light six at All Saints, Dunkerton (tenor 5 cwt) on 20th March 2006, although I had attended the previous Bath Branch Practice on the six at St Nicholas, Kelston (tenor 10½ cwt) a month earlier. Apparently the prospect of a whole new Association's worth of bells was enough to renew my enthusiasm for visiting new towers as my list once again started to grow.

In addition to my occasional visits, I also started attending the Branch Practices of not only the Bristol Rural and Bath Branches (of both of which I was now a member), but also the neighbouring Wotton-under-Edge (G&B) and Chew (B&W) Branches. Added to these were two Association AGM days – I grabbed NINE new towers on the B&W Association AGM day alone – and the annual Bristol Rural Branch Outing, so in just three months (to 8th May 2006) I had added a further 25 new towers to my list. This trend continued, and with a visit to Loughborough and the Bell Foundry Open Day at Taylors Eayre and Smith Ltd (as it was then called) on 15th July 2006 bringing four more – including the ten-bell Foundry Campanile (tenor 6½ cwt) as my most northerly and most easterly tower, and the eight-bell Willoughby Campanile (tenor ½ cwt) as my first mobile tower – by the end of 2006 my list had grown to an impressive 153.

It was at a Wotton-under-Edge Branch Practice that I first successfully rang a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor, the auspicious event taking place on the six bells at St Cyr, Stinchcombe (tenor 9¾ cwt) on 1st April 2006. And believe me, it was no joke! Ringing Surprise methods was something I'd always considered a step too far for me, being more than happy to ring the treble while everyone else did the complicated stuff, but five weeks earlier I'd somehow been persuaded to look at it – anyone who's ever encountered the incomparable Steve Coleman will understand. Consequently I found myself learning Cambridge, and it turned out to be quite straightforward after all. So straightforward in fact that just over two weeks (and many courses of Cambridge) later, on the B&W Association AGM day I had the opportunity to call it on the six bells at St Michael, Butcombe (tenor 14¾ cwt), and despite the nerves it actually came round. I could finally call myself a Surprise ringer.

It's probably worth mentioning that shortly after these events, while visiting the practice on the six at St Martin, North Nibley (tenor 9¾ cwt) I was (once again) persuaded to learn Norwich Surprise Minor. Amazingly I achieved this in just a week and rang two courses of it at the following practice. However, I may have been a little too quick with it as I've hardly rung it since and I've now forgotten most of it.

Next: Sticking My Oar In