The Association has a complete record of all peals rung for it held within a database. It also has records of all known peals rung for other associations rung within its territory.
The peal records exist as a set of four handwritten books covering peals up to 1966, some typed peal-books and sets of printed sheets, all of which are also recorded in a peal database. A massive amount of work has been undertaken by the Association's Peal Recorders to analyse, catalogue and check the records to ensure that the details are as correct as possible. Although peals are published in the Ringing World (and predecessors such as Bell News), each peal has to be checked for correctness and issues queried with the conductor.
The peal database has a long history and started as a set of card indexes, from which was developed a series of peal data computer systems. The current system has been developed in 2023 using a widely-used relational database (SQLite3) and the Python programming language with the aim of minimising the effort needed to maintain the data and to produce various reports. The Ringing World has a central peal recording system called BellBoard. Bellboard has full details of all peals submitted (it is complete for L&M peals and for any rung with the L&M area) and is the closest system in existence to a national peal database. Bellboard however does not normalise tower or ringer details: entry of details is free-format and is therefore prone to numerous association, location and ringer name variations due to spelling or maiden names. Pealbase is another online system which aims to capture details of all peals ever rung and is a fantastic resource for analysis of peals by ringer, tower or association.
The current database works on the following principles:
- Bellboard is treated as the central repository of peal data and any errors are corrected there
- The L&M database mirrors Bellboard - no data transcription is needed as new or changed peal data is downloaded and the database updated. This removes the risk of transcription errors.
- The database builds on the previous database by including full peal details (in particular details of spliced or multi-methods rung, composer. composition, footnotes, silent and non-conducted peals, strapper peals where two ringers rang the same bell)
- The database enhances the Bellboard data by grouping ringer/location/association name variants together to allow correct identification of all peals rung by a specific ringer/location/association no matter what name/location/variant variant you start with.
- Provides comprehensive search facilities
- Allows the production of various peal reports: league tables, all peals rung by a specific ringer/location/association. These are in Word or CSV format allowing personal editing and analysis of data.
- Allows the production of the reports needed for the Association Annual Report
- Is linked to the data held in the Dove's tower online database (which holds details of all towers currently in existence) and the Felstead database (which is regarded as the most complete, though minimal, record of all peals ever rung) to facilitate cross-checking of data
It should be noted that during 2022 all Association peals (and Non-Association peals in area) which were not already on Bellboard were added (over 4000!). This means that Bellboard now provides a complete and comprehensive way of searching for and finding Association peals which any ringer can use.
While the peal database is frequently updated, the various peal reports and the database copy will be updated at least annually at the beginning of each year in line with the provision of the Annual Report peal details (although as the system automates the production of the various reports and their upload to the L&M website, it is now a simple task to update the reports much more frequently).
It is also of note that the previous version of the peal database (developed using Delphi) by Bob Hardy was made available for distribution to ringers and could be used either to directly view Association peals, or could be used as a personal peal database. This system is still available for personal use if required (however the peal data it contains is only correct up 2022 and will not be maintained) - please contact the Peal Recorder if you would like a copy.