Bell Ringing

At St George’s Church in the village of Beckington we are fortunate to have a ring of eight bells. The heaviest bell, the tenor, weighs just over 16 cwt (about ¾ ton). The lightest bell, the treble, is about 5 cwt.  Two of the bells were cast in 1756 by Thomas Bilbie of Chewstoke.

Bellringing – that’s what ringers call it – not Campanology- the ‘dictionary’ word, is very much a UK activity. There are about 5000 churches in the UK with bells hung for ‘change’ ringing and only about 100 or so else where in the world and these are mainly in the early British Colonies.

At Beckington, like most towers. We have ringers from all walks of life. Dentists, Engineers, Nurses etc.  However, no qualifications are needed to make a good bellringer. To ring you do not need to be mathematical, musical or strong, onlya good ear and sense of rhythm is important.  People can start from a young age but about 10 - 12 is when children are usually tall enough to make it easier to learn. There is no upper age limit but one needs to be reasonably flexible.  It usually takes a couple of weeks to manage the basics of bellringing but several more months to ring safely without a tutor nearby.  Ringers will usually be very welcome to visit other towers and ring with their local band.  Ringing is very much a team effort and a simple scale – like on the piano – rung accurately sounds lovely. For those who seek a challenge the sky’s the limit.

Unfortunately, the Covid 19 has prevented the usual yearly social events we organise like the outing where we have a day visiting other towers to ring their bells, the BBQ and our Christmas social gathering.

At present, if all our ringers turn up, we can ring all 8 bells but we would like to increase the number of ringers we have. If you have learnt to ring but let it lapse, please consider coming back. If you are interested in learning come along on our practice night which is 7.30pm on a Thursday to meet us and get an idea of what is involved. We ring from the ground floor so there is no spiral staircase to ascend.  Quite a lot of effort by the other ringers goes into teaching a new ringer so we hope for a reasonable degree of commitment.  Interestingly it is often the busiest of people who make that commitment. 

The heaviest bell hung for change ringing is ‘Emmanuel’ the tenor at Liverpool Cathedral that weighs just over 4 tons!  Some of the methods (like the musical score) are very intricate and the compositions a real feat of memory. Ringers have a language of their own like Bobs, Singles, Stedman, Grandsire, Surprise, Caters, Maximus, look to, stand, to list just a few. So come along and learn our language and enjoy great friendship thrown in.

Useful link for more information about Church Bell Ringing

Central Council of Church Bell Ringers