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Thornbury Parish

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Why Ring?


When are bells rung?

       for church services

       for weddings

       for special occasions (eg Remembrance Sunday or Ringing in the New Year)

       for ringers’ practice and pleasure

Who are we?

There are currently 5 adults who are regular ringers, and we rely on support from ringers of a neighbouring parish who range in age from 14 to their 60’s.   We are always looking for new recruits of any age (although 10 or 11 is the usual minimum due to the weight of our bells).

Why do we do it?

Some people just like to ring on Sunday mornings as a voluntary service to the Church so the basic commitment is one evening a week for ringing practice plus 45 minutes on a Sunday morning, and a few weddings on Saturdays.  However some people can become so engrossing in this hobby that it can take up several evenings each week, in order to learn more complex and challenging “methods” (see “the technical bit” below!).  However, for all of us, ringing provides a service for the church, a good social life and the opportunity to continually learn something new.  Bellringing is simply just plain good fun and it is a privilege to be allowed to play musical instruments that are over 300 years old.

What is change ringing? (the technical bit )

Change ringing is an English tradition which dates back to the early part of the 17th century, and consists of ringing bells so that the order in which they sound is systematically changed.   The bells are tuned to a normal (diatonic) scale and it is usual to start with ringing down the scale, a sequence which ringers call “rounds”. The order in which the bells sound is then altered to give different sequences called “changes”.

Changes may be called out individually by the conductor, and this style is known as call-change ringing. Alternatively, the changes may be made to a pre-set pattern or “method”, and each ringer must learn that method in order to know when his or her particular bell must sound in each row. This style is known as method ringing.

Call changes and a few standard methods such as Grandsire, Plain Bob, or Stedman (which all date from the late 17th Century) are rung in most towers (including Thornbury) and this makes it very easy for ringers to visit and ring with other bands.  There are many advanced methods with wonderful names such as Double Norwich, Bristol Surprise, or Orion Maximus, which provide a continuing challenge as ringers gain proficiency over time.

Are you a potential new recruit?

Our teenagers will disappear to university shortly, so we are looking for new volunteers both young and the not so young.

So if you are aged between 11 and 111 years old, and would be interested in knowing more, why not visit the tower on a Tuesday evening between 7:30 and 9:00 pm and learn a little more about the art of change ringing.  Once you have seen what we do, you can decide if you would like to learn to ring the bells yourself.  And of course you would be most welcome to join us for a social drink afterwards, whatever your decision.

Please contact the Tower Captain if you are interested.

How long does it take to learn?

Initial bell handling tuition takes place on a one to one basis and most beginners will be ready to ring with a band within a couple of months. For example, one of our learners was ringing basic rounds and call-changes competently and confidently for morning services within about 4 months.  The basic skill lies in being able to control a bell (which you can’t see) that rotates full circle using a rope (your communication cord) attached to its wheel. There is always something new to learn and ringers progress at their own pace, depending on the time and effort they devote to practice.  Once you have learned the basic technique you will always be made welcome when you visit other towers.