Category Archives: Events

Crafty Ringers

As well as ringing for Remembrance Sunday 2018, at Stepney the Armistice Centenary was also marked by the production of some fine handicrafts to serve and to commemorate.

old, fragile Stepney muffles

In anticipation of the approaching centenary, at their January AGM Stepney’s band decided it was an appropriate time to invest in new muffles – the old muffles with their leather straps and buckles were difficult to strap on securely, some were worn, fragile and damaged and Stepney’s flightless 6 required special measures involving gaffer tape – not pretty. The last thing we wanted to happen for the centenary ringing was straps breaking, muffles slipping or wearing through.

Wilf and George at Stepney

An order was duly placed with Wilf Grove and great was our relief to learn that the order had been received before the cut-off in order to be ready for the big day. Although through spring Wilf encountered interruptions that threatened delay, he hand delivered the muffles to a Thursday practice in August with his colleague George, both ringers at Streatham and true craftsmen who care deeply about the quality of their products.


Ingenious Wilf rose to the challenge of devising a crafty muffle for our flightless 6. To see his solution, you’ll have to visit Stepney!

Deputy Steeple Keeper Éva economically shared out a tin of the recommended non-slip paint between the three towers where she rings regularly: Foster Lane, St Giles-in-the-Fields and Stepney all had their clappers so treated. By the end of August we were fully prepared.

A test in August confirmed the fit of the muffle for the flightless 6. A half-muffled practice 8th November reassured us that the muffles would not slip. We were very pleased on 11th November, when nine ringers enabled us to ring all 10 beautifully muffled bells in different combinations of 6 and 8 for the morning service.

Stepney’s muffle bag

10am service half muffled ringing

Of course our new set of muffles are housed in one of Wilf’s trademark bags, complete with beautiful embroidered ‘portrait’ of the church. It’s possible to view the whole gallery of these wonderful embroidered tower ‘portraits’ on the Big Wilf’s website


Toward the end of summer, on his travels, Steeple Keeper Julian admired a life-sized WWI soldier-in-silhouette in a pose of solemn reflection and was inspired to create one for St Dunstan’s – finding two, in fact, could be produced from a single sheet of plywood. Daytimes these figures would be found in the churchyard.Brought in at night to protect them from unwanted attention, they were positioned standing guard at the entrance to the lady chapel and ringers entering the church for practice would double-take: Their uncanny presence almost life-like, their stance quietly but powerfully conveying the awful solemnity of the armistice and irrecoverable desolation of what had gone before, everyone agrees they are arresting and very moving in both locations.

St Dunstan’s Lady Chapel

We are blessed that a member of the Stepney band can always be relied upon to ensure that special events are commemorated – often with handicraft keepsakes. The team organising the centenary ringing was consulted about numbers and a small team of elves contracted for production.  Accordingly it was seen to that all who would ring for the armistice centenary at Docklands towers and Foster Lane could wear a specially made ‘Ringing Remembers’ poppy.

Anna, Elizabeth, Minmin, Julian, Mark, Sue and Joe following the midday open ringing at Stepney (with one of those who rang at nearly Limehouse). See also this lovely picture of the Lewisham Band.

12.30pm open ringing in celebration of peace.

More than 70 poppies were hand made by lead elf Anna and her small team of elves (Elizabeth and Kristen-of-Foster-Lane) from felt with custom commissioned ribbon stems jacquard-woven with ‘Ringing Remembers 1918’. The Docklands distribution network (Stepney ringers have many useful connections to other towers and their practices) was mobilised and all consignments were efficiently delivered by their couriers to the eight Docklands towers where ringing would take place as well as to Foster Lane in time for ringing for peace on the afternoon of 11 November.

One of the Docklands Ringing Remembers Poppies.


The numbers turned out by this small production line are an encouraging reminder of the numbers of Docklands ringers who can rally to the request – in this case, expressed by the governments of the UK and Germany – to provide ringing. It is also a tribute to the skill of outgoing DRC Secretary Gill, who has many times expertly grappled with the logistics of assigning ringers to as many Docklands Towers as possible for a special occasion.

We’ll look forward to many years of service from our reliable new muffles and to wearing our poppies next November when we will be reacquainted with our soldiers and the gravity of their reminder at the beginning of their next centenary’s service.

Striking competition and AGM

After the Stepney ringers (see photo) regained both trophies in the striking competition, the AGM was held. Welcome LOUISE BOOTH as the new Chair of the Ringing Centre!

Pictured with striking competition judge, Mike Wigney

Remembrance Sunday at Limehouse

Piers, Bo, Lina and Justina

With 15 ringers available, we had enough ringers, not only ring half muffled at Rotherhithe this morning, but also to split in two and ring at Bermondsey and Limehouse at the same time!

Over recent months we have grown the band so that we have enough ringers to able to do this more regularly. Piers, Bo, Lina and Justina all started learning to ring in August. They have learnt quickly, having benefitted from some intensive handling sessions with plenty of ‘rope time’ and use of our simulators to practice striking. They are all now ringing rounds and call changes sufficiently well to be able to ring together at Limehouse this morning.

This was also the first time that they had rung half muffled, enabling them to tick another box in their 50 Ringing Things book (two for those that helped fit/remove the muffles).

The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers announced this morning that working in Partnership with the Government, in a year’s time, on Nov 11th 2018 they are looking for: 

1.     As much bell ringing in as many towers as possible, with half-muffled ringing in the morning, and open bells in the afternoon and evening.

2.     Ringing as part of the large-scale British project, ‘Battle’s Over – A Nation’s Tribute’. Pipers will be piping in the morning, bugles sounding and 1,000 beacons lit across the UK in the evening; with1,000 towers ringing at 7.05pm on the day.

3.     Recruiting and training 1,400 new ringers in 2018, the same number as those who fell in the Great War, to take part in this ringing

Piers, Bo, Lina and Justina show that with intensive tuition it is quite feasible to train new bell ringers and have them ringing well enough to ring together on Sundays within a few months. Enquires from people wishing to learn in time for 2018 are already coming in as a result of today’s nationwide publicity.


Packed tower at St Anne’s Limehouse

Some of the helpers (l to r) Naoko, Roger, Simon, Emma, Greg, Bo, Piers, Alan, JJ Andrew, Gillian, Lily.

People were queuing before mid-day to come and meet the ringers, see the bells and climb to the top of the tower at St Anne’s Limehouse at the tower open day on Sunday 10th September.

Advertised on the Canary Wharf and Isle of Dogs Facebook Page and the Heritage Open Days website, and with a parish fun-day going on in the churchyard, we must have had over 120 members of the public come up the tower. At times, particularly in the first three hours, it was very hectic. There were almost too many people and the Rector and Churchwardens were very pleased and impressed with the response.

We were able to demonstrate the bells being rung, ringing some rounds and a few call changes on 6, 8 or 10 bells every 20 minutes or so. We then took people up to the top of the tower, past the bells and clock, where they could admire the view and listen to a brief talk about the history of the building.

On the way down, they were invited to have a go and talk to the ringers, whilst the next group went up. It was particularly pleasing that some of our newer ringers, who have only been ringing for a few months (even weeks) were able to take part and talk to members of the public about Learning the Ropes.

As a result of this event, we have several people’s contact details to follow up. With the other new ringers that we have at Greenwich, Isle of Dogs and Bermondsey, we are going to be busy teaching them to handle over the next few weeks, and hopefully they will be ringing rounds at practices and on Sundays by October.

Demonstrating ringing, with members of the public watching on

Demonstrating ringing, with members of the public watching on



JJ Explains ringing to some non ringers

The feather banners outside

The ten bells, viewed through the sound control floor from above

The Thomas More clock, installed in 1852 after the great fire



Bermondsey Community Fun Day – highly successful

Rear (L to R): Roger Booth, Paul Harding, Edward Gormley, Matt Amos, Trisha Shannon.
Front: Naoko Nakatani, David Connearn, Lily Tang.
Photo: Gillian Harris.

On Saturday 22 July, the Parish of Bermondsey held a Community Fun Day in aid of restoring the ‘Joy Slide’ which once sat in the Churchyard. The old wooden slide, which was built in 1921 and brought delight to generations of Bermondsey children, was donated by Arthur Carr, Chairman of Peak Freans, whose biscuit factory stood close by. The old slide was damaged by fire and removed shortly after we installed the new bells, 25 years ago.

There were various attractions in the churchyard including a bouncy castle, helter skelter and a barbecue. As one of the attractions, during the afternoon we invited local people to come up the tower and meet the ringers, watch the bells being rung and climb the new ladder to the viewing platform above the bells.

Our aim was to raise awareness of the bells and the ringers within the local community and the church family, and to recruit some new people into the local band. With help from our friends from Greenwich, Lewisham and Waterloo, and with all the ringers wearing their smart Docklands Ringers polo shirts, and giving everyone a warm welcome, we certainly helped give the right impression.

We must have showed at least 60 people up the tower and given most of them a go at ringing a few backstrokes, even a large group of schoolchildren. We also have three people who have left their contact details, and there may be a couple more who have also promised to come along early next Tuesday evening for a lesson. We were also able to publicise the event in local social media, and have attracted a significant number of ‘likes’.

The Vicar and Churchwardens were very pleased and it was very good PR for the ringers. All in all a very worthwhile exercise.