The sound of bells is the outward voice of the Church. Anyone hearing bells ringing, no matter when or where, is reminded of the presence of the Christian Church.
Anyone can become a bellringer; male or female, young or old, tall or short, fat or thin, professional or artisan. So long as you are capable of climbing the stairs to the ringing room, you can become a bellringer.
If you are interested to learn more, David Manger (the Bell Captain) will be pleased to see you on a Monday evening at 7.30 p.m. in the Bell Tower or ring David on 01622 890675.
All bellringers are volunteers and there are many varied reasons why they remain fascinated by the art.
The physical aspect
Anyone wanting to learn to ring will be given one on one tuition until confident enough to handle the bell alone. Once you have learned to fully control the bell with the rope, the accuracy required to make your bell strike precisely in relation to the others is a challenge in itself. The precision needed in ringing a small bell or the effort demanded in ringing one of the bigger bells, requires concentration and focus. This all contributes to the fascination of ringing.
Change ringing is the means by which the order of the bells ringing is altered. Firstly the newcomer will ring called changes whereby each change is called by the conductor. The next progression is to the elementary methods. Names like Grandsire, Stedman and Plain Bob will be familiar to many, but there are tens of thousands of further permutations of increasing complexity that mean that you will never learn them all; there is a continual progression to retain the ringer’s interest.
Bellringing as we know it, whereby the bell swings full circle, striking once on each rotation, was developed in the 16th century and change ringing followed in the 17th. Some bells still in use, date from before the Reformation. It is a sobering thought to be ringing the same bell in the same place as our forebears two, three or four hundred years ago. Records of past performaces decorate ringing rooms throughout the country and most towers have a wonderful atmosphere of history and tradition.
Maintenance and Engineering
Being mechanical, with moving parts, bells and their fittings require constant maintenance. This can extend from the regular adjustment of ropes and greasing of bearings, to the full dismantling of a ring of bells, prior to foundry attention, and their rehanging.
The Kent County Association has a highly competent group, capable of working with foundry professionals, which saves parishes tens of thousands of pounds when major work is required on their bell installation. All this is undertaken by bellringers.
The common interest in ringing leads to close friendships among ringers from near and far. Visitors frequently attend the practice nights at neighbouring towers and tower members attend local district meetings. The Kent County Assoication maintains a network of contacts throughtout the county. As a ringer, you will always be welcome in another tower, no matter where you are, in this country or wherever bells are rung in the traditional English style; North American, South Africa, Australia and others.
For more information on the history of the bells in St Mary’s Church click here
Come on! Give it a go!