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Planning Retirement Online

Out of the box.  Bell Ringing

                                     May 2010

This is our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.      

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.



This month we look at ……Bell ringing .

Harold Rogers and Dennis Brock - both in their nineties - catch hold for a ring on the new bells at St Magnus - the- Martyr in the City of London.

Photo reproduced by kind permission of  Robert Lewis,
Editor of The Ringing World,
the weekly journal for church
bell ringers

If you live in the United Kingdom or Europe, you will be very aware that the sound of church bells is a deep part of our heritage.

Whatever our beliefs, the glorious sound of church bells floating over the warm air on a gentle summer’s evening are a treasured part of many people’s lives.

But there is more to bells than the sound. Bell ringing is an excellent team activity for everyone – people from all walks of life and all age ranges from ten to those over 80 regularly ring church bells. You don’t need to be super fit; you don’t need to go to Church, you don’t need to read music – as long as you can count you can probably ring a bell successfully.

It is also a very useful activity because it helps to keep you fit, it stimulates the brain – and it can open up an exciting new social life. Really bell ringing, or its official name campanology, has a lot going for it.

It is also fairly straightforward to learn, after just a few weeks you may well be able to join a group. Groups usually practice regularly, up to perhaps twice a week, so you will continue to improve. Another good thing about bell ringing is that you can become involved at many different levels, from ringing for perhaps 15 minutes before the occasional local service to ringing hundreds of peals in a year in numerous towers. Bell ringing really is an activity that can be adapted to everyone’s individual requirements and levels of interest.

Even the study of the bells themselves is fascinating. Bells come in a wide range of sizes, from small bells just two feet high weighing perhaps a couple of hundredweight to giant bells that are measured in tons.

Ringing a bell is done by simply pulling downwards on a rope. This is usually attached to a wheel that in turn swings the bell. Inside a bell is a long lump of metal called the clapper. This can swing freely in the bell, so when the bell is swung upwards, gravity causes the clapper to fall onto one side of the bell, making the ringing sound.

Bell ringing is usually done with a group of other ringers, and you will each ring your bell in a specific pre-planned sequence to form either a scale or a planned peal. The real skill is timing. Each tower will have several bells that give out different notes when rung – the bells are usually tuned to a normal (diatonic) scale. The challenge is to be able to make your ring happen at exactly the right time for a perfect musical result.

There is always something new to learn in bell ringing – some bell ringers have been involved for over 40 years and say they are still learning new things.

If you think you could be interested, then an easy way to start is to find someone local to have a chat with. Approach churches in your area, ask for the contact details of the tower captain or anyone involved in bell ringing, and you will probably find there is opportunity to learn in your own town or village.

Otherwise, you can contact Learn to Ring in Andover, Hampshire, who can give advice – call them on 01264 366 620, email them on or send a sae to: Learn to Ring, Ringing World, 35A High Street, Andover, SP10 1LJ.

Ringing World is the official weekly journal of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and they have a useful websites: Also has some good information for would-be bell ringers.


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