One unique sound of the British countryside is the ringing of church bells which takes place in about 6000 church towers. Only in Britain is change ringing, the ringing of bells in special sequences, so widely practiced. Bells are an important part of our Church and social history.
To most people, bellringing (also known as campanology) appears mysterious and highly complicated; in some ways it is, but it is also fun. Mastering the technique of handling a bell is rather like riding a bicycle, and once you have done it, you never forget. After that it is up to each ringer to decide how far they want to progress.
Here is a clip of the sights & sounds of ringing at St Marys. (click the video to start)
Bells have traditionally been rung as a means of communication, both religious and secular. The main object of ringing is to call people to prayer and for the glory of God.
At St. Mary’s the bells are rung every Sunday morning from 9 – 9.30 am for the Parish Eucharist and some Sunday evenings from 6 – 6.30 pm for Evensong. Many couples ask for bells to be rung after their wedding and the Vicar usually requests bells for special church services. Sometimes there are visiting bellringers from other churches.
Very occasionally, a peal will be rung to mark an important event such as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. This involves about 3 hours of bellringing and is not for the faint-hearted! More recently we have rung the bells fully muffled to mark the passing of the Queen, and open in celebration of the proclamation of King Charles III as our new King.
Bellringers need to practice regularly and this happens at St. Mary’s on Tuesday evenings from 7.30 – 9.00 pm. We are careful to finish ringing practice on time to avoid upsetting people living nearby, especially those with small children. However we should all remember that the church and bells were there long before many of the houses!
How do you become a bellringer?
Find out more by contacting the Ringing Master, Liz Middleton on 07952 641 529 or secretary Rebecca Edwards on 07793 547 876. Or come along to our practice night at St. Mary’s, any Tuesday evening from 7.30 pm and you are welcome to watch the ringing and consider whether it is an activity that you might enjoy.
You will not be expected to even touch a rope unless you want to and then you will be closely supervised to ensure that you are quite safe. It will take a few weeks of practice before you are able to handle a bell on your own and it is very satisfying when you can. The next challenge is to strike your bell at the right time in a band of 6 ringers.
Bellringing is an unusual, fascinating and very sociable hobby. We have monthly District ringing practices and an annual tower outing which allows bellringers to travel and try the bells at other churches.
More ringers are needed now to ensure the bells can be rung every Sunday and for other church
services and weddings when requested. Why not come and join us? We don’t expect you to be available to ring every Sunday, but any contribution that you can make to service ringing will be welcomed. It would be very sad if the craft of bellringing and the sound of bells was lost in Redbourn.