There are about 5000 towers in the British Isles where there are bells hung for full-circle ringing. Most of these are in church towers, and most are in England, with smaller numbers in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. There are also some full-circle bell installations in other countries such as USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A bell 'hung for full circle ringing' means that the bell is mounted on an axle with a wheel also attached to the axle. A rope round the rim of the wheel allows the ringer to control the bell from below. There is a stay and slider arrangement so the bell can be set mouth upwards just over the balance, with the clapper resting on the side of the bell. Pulling on the rope pulls the bell up to and over the balance, then it swings through 360 degrees up to the balance again. The clapper is pushed off the side of the bell and, as the bell reaches the balance, the clapper strikes the other side of the bell just once ( 'Dong' ) and rests on that side of the bell ready for the next stroke.
When the ringers are ready, they usually start by sounding the bells in 'rounds', with the lightest bell sounding first and the heaviest one sounding last. The physical configuration of the bells means that each ringer can make their bell swing a little bit slower or faster so the order of sounding the bells can be altered and two adjacent bells can swap places. This is the basis of change ringing. Pairs of bells swap places, either one pair at a time ('called changes'), or in a pre-defined pattern (a method) which is designed so the bells sound in different orders and come back into rounds. Plain hunt is the simplest pattern and has each bell moving to each position in turn. When ringing plain hunt on four bells, the bells are back in rounds after eight blows.
Bell ringing requires coordination and a sense of rhythm rather than great strength, and there are ringers of all ages and from all walks of life. Bell ringing is a team activity, and new recruits are always welcome.
A short clip of No.5 being rung up
At Laxfield we welcome new ringers. The situation is a bit tricky at the moment due to COVID19 risks, so it’s not possible to have guests or learners in the ringing chamber right now. Once the pandemic is over, however, learners will be able to practice using the new simulator that will be installed as part of the bells restoration project. This will enable learners to practice without sounding the bells, so it will be possible to practice for longer and gain proficiency without the rest of the village listening in … a great relief for all concerned! Check back here, we’ll update this page once it’s possible for us to accept new learners and guests in the ringing chamber.
These five ringers are pulling their bells in sequence from left to right, highest pitch to lowest pitch. © Washington Ringing Society
We hope you find our site interesting and return regularly to view progress on our restoration project via the webcam and the blog.
If you would like to get in touch please use the link above.