Matt Peperell's Blog

B is for 'Bellringing'

Written: 02 Apr 2024 (Index by date)

Tags: a-to-z  (Index by tag)

One of the numerous hobbies I have is bellringing. The -ology word for it is campanology but virtually no one in the community calls it that. A rather obscure name for it, and one seldom used, is The Excercise. But what’s it all about?

It’s mostly an English thing, but does exist elsewhere in places where there’s been Church of England influence. Bells are used, primarily as a call to worship. But my interest lies in the musical and mathematical theory side of things, along with team work and mental endurance. It requires physical motion, yes, but not an undue amount of effort. The mechanics of wheels and pulleys makes it possible for even a person of my limited strength to run bells exceeding one ton.

Musically, the bells are pretty much always tuned to a major scale starting with the highest note and ending with the lowest note. In each unit of time (which we usually call a row), each bell will ring once and once only. For mechanical reasons (conservation of momentum, for those who care) from one row to the next a bell can be in the same position, one position earlier, or one position later.

We change the order in a pre-determined pattern that must be committed to memory. These patterns can be simple or complex, and it’s this variety and the challenge of memorising the patterns (which we call methods) that keeps my interest.

What got me into it? New Year’s Day 1996 I was helping friend clean out his loft and got distracted, having found one of his theory books. I expressed an interest and he invited me to come along to the practice night, which happened to be the following evening.

When I first moved to North London, I heard through the community that the bells of the local church were not being regularly rung and the church had members of the congregation who were interested in learning. So I made myself known and have been teaching and ringing there for the last 18 years.

If you’re interested to find out more and you live near a church then turn up on a practice night and they’ll almost certainly welcome you. It’s a very open communinity and one does not need to be a person of faith to take part, though one must always keep in mind the reason for ringing existing, is a religous one.

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