We know that the bell frame dates back to the early renaissance period, the early days of the Tudor monarchy. Originally there were five bells, but at some point the frame was changed to accommodate a sixth. The bells are arranged in an unusual anti-clockwise ring. Our oldest bell is the third, which was cast in Bury St Edmunds around 1490, when Henry VII was on the throne and the fifth bell (the one that strikes the hour) was made during the reign of Elizabeth I in Norwich.
Our treble (the smallest bell) was cast in the 17th century and our other older bells were re-cast in the 19th century to create our current bells 2 and 4. The tenor (the largest bell, weighing about 800kg) is the youngest of our bells, not quite a century old.
The bells have been rung through the centuries to celebrate weddings and births as well as to mark funerals and to sound the alarm in times of danger. There were enthusiastic bands of ringers in throughout the 20th century until about 1990, when ringing ceased as the number of ringers diminished.
However, about ten years ago, a certain Doug Crooke moved from Halesworth and as an enthusiastic ringer sought to encourage more people to practice ringing. The band numbered six in 2014, most of whom were novices and struggling with the old and difficult-to-ring bells. About that time, our current tower captain, Fiona Shuttle joined us, with over forty years of ringing experience and now the band numbers eighteen ringers, all keen to learn and develop this traditional community and social activity.
Laxfield Bell Ringers in 1958 (L to R)
Mr. Scoggins, S. Ayers, Robin Allum, Walter Smith, Reggie Wright, Ivan Allum, Tommy Revell
Ringers in the 1970s (L to R)
Reggie Wright, Gerald Nason, Walter Smith
A short video clip of ringing in 1989. Robin Allum (3rd left in the 1958 photograph) is seen here, thirty one years later.
There are currently eighteen of us; we practice weekly on Tuesday evenings to teach and develop to a standard where individuals are able to ring for services, weddings and other significant occasions. The current installation is very challenging for learners as the bells are difficult to control when ringing even for more experienced ringers. The Suffolk Guild of Ringers is very supportive and the Laxfield band are credited as being a growing and developing team when the majority of other churches struggle to attract new ringers.
Our tower captain has completed training by the Association of Ringing Teachers and in order to increase teaching capability a further two ringers will undertake this course.
The band members are from a range of backgrounds, but we’re a sociable group and each practice session is rounded off with a visit to one of the local pubs. We’re always interested to talk with new members and would love to encourage some younger people in the village to join in.
Covid precautions for ringing on VJ Day 2020
We hope you find our site interesting and return regularly to view progress on our restoration project via the webcam and the blog.
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