‘Look to, trebles going … she’s gone!’
This is the call to ring church bells that all bellringers will have responded to since the invention of a new way of hanging bells with a wheel attached for the rope to go round. For the first time it allowed the bellringer to vary the speed of the bell’s chime, and so to ring ‘tunes’ or methods in a tower hung with a set of bells tuned to each other.
Bells had been associated with religious services since the days of the monasteries and were the earliest ways for the layman to be aware of the passing of time before church clocks.
The bellringing methods we use today were first published in 1668 by Fabian Stedman in his book Tintinnalogia or The Art of Ringing. The technique is thought to have spread from London throughout the rest of England in the 1700s. Over the last 300 years the number of churches with more than four change-ringing bells has increased to over 6,000, mainly in England but also in Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and even a few towers in the USA.
St Mary the Virgin, our magnificent church in Bruton, has one of the heaviest rings of bells in the West Country; the tenor, the biggest bell with the lowest note, weighs over 25cwt. That’s like a small car swinging over our heads. Luckily tower and bell maintenance is an important aspect of our responsibilities! Practice night is on Wednesdays at 7.30pm and Sunday ringing is usually at 10.15am. Bellringing is fun and sociable, so if the above has not put you off and you would like to see us in action, call our Tower Captain Christine Dunn 01749 812 585 or email Bruton@bath-wells.org. For Pitcombe, call Tina Harley 01749 813 262 Pitcombe@bath-wells.org; for Shepton Montague, Jay Bunyan 01749 812 797 SheptonMontague@bath-wells.org.