Learning to RingThe bells you hear ringing on Sunday are not automatic, electric or rung by a machine! Each bell needs someone to ring it.
We ring in traditional Wiltshire style, using a pre-printed card from which we read the changes. The cards give the changes for a method with the name of "St Nicholas". We ring a new change every two strokes. As there are a total of 24 changes, this means we repeat the melody every minute. Unusually, we do not leave a gap at the end of each row of changes (most bell ringers do this), as we find it suits these bells better to keep the ringing continuous.
Who can learn?Anyone! Ringers range in ages from about 8 years old to over 100. Some ringers are blind, some wheelchair bound, and some have only 1 arm or 1 leg. However, we must point out that access to our ringing chamber is up a narrow, circular stone staircase, so, if you cannot manage that, you would have to go to a church where they ring from the ground floor. Local churches are Chilmark, Silton or Stourton.
How do you ring?Each bell swings to and fro, forward and back, to make the clapper hit the bell to make the sound. The bell is attached to a large wheel, like a cartwheel. Round the wheel runs a rope. The ringer pulls on the rope to make the bell swing.
We can lend you an excellent video which shows you, much better than we can describe in words, what happens. Better still, contact Malcolm (tel: 828919) or email him via this website and arrange to come and watch us in action one Sunday morning!
How is it taught?You will be taught individually by an experienced ringer. Progress depends on each person and is tailored to your abilities. There is no race!
Lessons take place in the tower and usually follow a scheme such as this:
Getting to know the equipment
Learning the backstroke, then the handstroke
Setting the bell at backstroke, then handstroke
Ringing the bell at both handstroke and backstroke
Practising bell control / ringing faster and slower / Ringing in time with others
At this point, a whole range of options opens and what happens next is up to you.
How much does it cost?There is no charge but any donation towards the upkeep of the bells is welcomed.
Shall I swing through the air?Afraid not! That is a notion of the film makers.
Is it hard work?No. Although our heaviest bell weighs almost half a ton, a small person could ring it once they have learnt the correct technique.
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Donhead St Andrew's Ringers: Copyright© 2004.