What Is Bell Ringing?

"...it may be an ancient art

but its still great today!"

 


What is bell ringing?

So how do we actually ring bells? and what is happening up the top of the tower?

The Bells

Basically bell ringers pull ropes which are tied to the bell's wheel. This is connected to the bell and it rotates. Inside the bell is a 'clapper' which swings as the bell does and hits the sides - so making a sound.

This diagram shows how a bell rotates when it is rung. The ringer is below and is pulling the yellow rope. The wheel (brown) is connected to the bell and they rotate, with the clapper striking the inside. To stop the bell continuously rotating, there is a 'stay' and a slider (the sliding thing) at the bottom which you will see stops the bell.

The bells used for change ringing are hung in a special way to enable them to be controlled with ease. When a bell is rung the rope wraps around the wheel. This is attached the the headstock which is connected to the bell. The stay and the slider at the bottom stop the bell going out of control. These bells are hung in a, usually, steel frame, which holds them in place and lets them pivot around the gudgeons.

Bell Ringing (or Change Ringing)

Change ringing itself uses the control this system of hanging to created variations in the order the bells are rung. In ringing each bell in a tower has a number, with 1 (also known as the treble) being the lightest and highest pitched to the heaviest and lowest pitched (the tenor). The number of bells ranges from 3 or 4 up to 16, but we are using 6 here as this is most common.

So, the 'normal' ringing down the scale you often here is (in bell form...)

1 2 3 4 5 6

...repeated usually.
This is known as 'Rounds'.

This is what the animation opposite shows. Each bell will strike (go dong or ding!) roughly when the ringers hands pass their face each time they head downwards.

Change ringing works by the order the bells strike in changing order. Because of the way bells are hung, the ringer has a lot of control over them. Bell ringers can adjust the lengths of their pulls to make a bell strike faster or slower than it normally would. With all the bells doing this you can change the overall order of them.

Usually bell ringers use what are known as 'Methods'. These are set sequences which the bells ring in, with each row of numbers being a new pull on the rope. Ringers remember their path through the numbers and then can ring them from memory - quite a talent but not that hard to learn.

This is a method on 6 bells called 'Plain Hunt' -->

1 2 3 4 5 6
2 1 4 3 6 5
2 4 1 6 3 5
4 2 6 1 5 3
4 6 2 5 1 3
6 4 5 2 3 1
6 5 4 3 2 1
5 6 3 4 1 2
5 3 6 1 4 2
3 5 1 6 2 4
3 1 5 2 6 4
1 3 2 5 4 6
1 2 3 4 5 6

Have a listen to some bells in action - Click here to download a sound clip!

So, overall, bell ringing is a skilled art but one which is remarkably simple once you get in to it. It requires no special skills to have a go but is guaranteed to teach you something new.

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