Ringing out hope through the pandemic

Published: March 2, 2021

Socially distanced bell ringing

Bell ringers in Leckhampton were not going to allow a pandemic to stand in the way of their ringing. The teams at St Peter’s, Leckhampton and The Church in Warden Hill have been using a virtual ringing platform and even trying some distanced ringing in their towers. Barbara Pettit, one of the ringing team, tells their story.

She said, “16 March 2020 was the last time that you would have heard all eight bells ringing from the steeple. Bell ringing in the UK came to a halt later that evening and everything ringing related was cancelled for the foreseeable future.”

But the group showed huge determination to keep going. During the autumn, the team were able to allow two people from the same household to ring at each end of the tower, while keeping socially distanced. This meant they were able to ring between four and five bells for a service.

Wedding couples were delighted to find that despite restrictions, they were able to have four bells ringing the joyful news of their marriage – one part of a traditional wedding that was not denied them.

At times, the rules have allowed groups of six ringers to meet outdoors and ring on an adapted mobile ‘mini ring’ – an arrangement of small bells on bicycle wheels and ropes that can be assembled in church car parks and gardens. The owner modified the design to allow the ringers to remain socially distanced as they rang.

The game changer has been the virtual change bell ringing platform called Ringing Room. On this platform, users join a virtual tower and have a weekly practice. ‘It feels like we’re almost back to normal’, said Barbara.”

“It’s brilliant, hard work, difficult, challenging – just like proper bell ringing but without the physical side of bell handling. It’s really hard when you first start, even for experienced ringers but keep at it and practise regularly and our learners are now ringing methods that they weren’t ringing in the tower. We all meet on Zoom so that we can socialise and decide what we are going to ring.”

Tower captain, Stuart Tomlinson, took the opportunity of lockdown to put the bell ringing records onto a database called BellBoard, which is a record of peals, quarter peals and other notable performances. At the time of writing, St Peter’s, Leckhampton is top of the list of leading tower bell quarter peals in the world with 2053 and 18th= with 412 peals. The first recorded peal is 30th November 1889 (on 6 bells as it was rung before the 1904 augmentation) and the first quarter peal is 23rd April 1922.

In spite of lockdown and other restrictions, four of the Leckhampton ringers have still managed to participate in ringing 142 individual performances in quarter peals since lockdown 1, sadly none of them on tower bells.

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