Change-ringing is a centuries-old art that continues to this day throughout the UK and also abroad.
The art of change ringing is based on sounding all the bells (be there six, eight, ten, or twelve of them) one after the other, but in different orders ( or changes) each time the bells sound.
This becomes possible because each bell rotates through a complete 360deg circle, starting and finishing mouth upwards, giving a split second in which the rate of sounding can be modified, the bell's clapper striking just once per rotation.
Acquiring the skill to control a bell to do this takes time. It requires the ringer first to learn to pull the rope sufficiently hard for the bell to complete the 360deg but not so hard as to start a second rotation! In fact, a mechanism known as a "stay and slider" impede the bell's passing the vertical position although they are designed, rather like a fuse in an electrical circuit, to break if an over-enthusiastic pull is made. Having gained bell control, the novice then has to memorise, for the different sequences (or methods ), the positions into which his bell must move. The speed of ringing is then adjusted so that the bell sounds at exactly the right moment. The first few changes of Grandsire Triples are given here, this particular method having the tenor (the term for the largest bell being rung, in this case bell number eight) always ringing last (or covering ).
Each sequence takes about two seconds to ring. Notice how each bell moves at most only one position on successive occasions. The precision of the timing of every ringer, or striking with a regular rhythm, is absolutely crucial if the overall effect is to be acceptable to the listener.
Some changes sound particularly musical at certain points in certain methods.
The names given to methods have romantic sounds such as Grandsire Triples, Cambridge Surprise Maximus, Plain Bob Minor, Stedman Caters, Kent Treble Bob Major (a name familiar to those who have read Dorothy Sayers' famous detective story The Nine Tailors ). The final part of the name in each case indicates how many bells change positions.
As with many specialist activities, bellringing (rarely called "campanology" by its practitioners) has a sub-culture all of its own. There are more than 5000 churches which possess a ring of five bells or more, most of them in the UK. And churches in the USA and Australia, for example, are putting in new rings at quite a rate. So ringing at a new tower is, for many, a recordable event, ringing visitors often joining the local band's mid-week practice night, the identity of which appears in Dove's Guide (the bellringers' equivalent of Crockford and now available on-line ).
(With thanks to the Llandaff Cathedral Guild of Ringers )
For more information please see the Recruitment Presentations below or contact the Association's PRO.
If you don't have MicroSoft PowerPoint on your PC then, to view the Presentation Slideshow, you will require PowerPoint Viewer 2007 (25.8MB).
The Recruitment Presentation is also available in PDF below.