During the period of national mourning for the late queen, there was a great deal of change for many people. Not least the town’s bell-ringers. Protocol is to fully muffle the bells at this time, which means applying a leather strap around the clapper to deaden the sound it makes. On Remembrance Day we half muffle the bells, which means one side sounds and the other side is quieter, but for the mourning period it was fully veiled.
Putting a muffler on a church bell is no mean feat. It involves lying directly under the bell (the largest of which is 19cwt) on a very dirty floor, in a confined and poorly lit space, and strapping on the muffler very tightly around the clapper. Over the period however, between current keeper of the bells and town mayor, Andi Rivett, former bell keeper John Gurney and deputy tower captain Rosemary, it was done. There were also taken off for the accession of King Charles III and put back again for the rest of the mourning period.
In order to hear this effect, of course, the bells have to be rung and there is a dedicated team who do so, not only for regular Sunday services, but also for weddings, Christmas, new year and other events. The bells were tolled for the late queen for an hour, done in ten minute, quick turn-around slots, to give everyone a go and everyone a rest. The following day they were rung for the new king.
What made this extra special was that our two new graduate ringers were both able to take part. Although Mayor Rivett has rung at a few weddings and services, he has not been learning that long, and our newest ringer to have passed muster is Judith Blincow, who took part in the queen’s ring as her first experience of ringing in public – no pressure there then!
It is a great team of local people who dutifully ring regularly each week. But it is also fun, especially around Christmas time, but my favourite is ringing in the new year, with a slow peel just before midnight and a fast round straight as the new year starts. Weddings are all the more joyous for hearing the bells as the bride enters the church and again when she leaves with her groom at the end of the service.
I was very lucky that we had a far-sighted sixth form at Thomas Peacocke School in the 1980s and learnt to ring with Nigel Spooner during Wednesday afternoon activities. We also learnt how to nip out to the Ypres pub afterwards!
Practice night is every Thursday from 7:30pm – 9pm. We welcome anyone who would like to ring the church bells. Even if you are not sure and want to give it a try you are most welcome to come along any Thursday. Contact Kevin Clifton on 07826 525728.
So, who will be our first new ringer of the King Charles III era? And don’t worry, you won’t be asked to muffle the bells just yet!
Image Credits: Oliver Lucas .