About Change Ringing

Mitchell TowerChange ringing is a form of campanology (bell ringing) which focuses on sounding bells in rhythmic sequences rather than playing tunes. By following a set of rules called methods a trained group of ringers may take the bells through a series of complicated sequences. The sequences are known as changes and the art is known as change ringing. Change ringing is also called ‘full circle ringing’ and evolved in England about 400 years ago. The style of ringing and the way the bells are hung evolved together. The bell and wheel are both mounted on the headstock, which is free to rotate.

The front six

Each bell is controlled by one ringer who pulls on a rope to swing the bell in a 360 degree arc back and forth. The rope is attached to the wheel, passing around it and down through a pulley block to the ringing room many feet below. The rope is all that connects the ringer below to the bell above. It wraps alternately each way around the wheel, so that the rope is in tension as the bell comes to rest at the end of each swing, and the ringer can control it by exerting more or less force as required.

Bell model

A model of a change ringing bell and wheel.

Learning to ring takes diligence and concentration, but just about anyone can do it. You don’t need to be strong to be a ringer: bell control is all about timing and rhythm. The more skilful you are, the less force you need, because of the way the bell works.

Change ringing is a blend of physical activity, mental exercise, mathematics, and music. It’s also fun!

[sources: Lawrence I. Phelps’ “An Introduction to Change Ringing“; and Bellringing myths exploded]

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