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Level 5 achievers Masterclass with 12 Bell Winners


Andrew Booth is the first person in Docklands to reach Learning the Ropes Level 5. On September 17 he was invited, along with all the others who have achieved level 5 so far, to an expenses paid ‘Masterclass’ with the St Martin’s Guild, regular winners of the National 12 Bell Trophy, in Birmingham, home of the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing.

The day started with an introductory session, led by Stephanie Warboys, focussing on striking. Everyone listened to six video clips of ringing and then discussed the faults. Stephanie explained that the Birmingham ringers place great importance on discussing striking; even the most experienced ringers are never satisfied with their striking yet it is the elephant in the room that so many ringers seem unwilling to face. She also explained that no-one should take it personally later in the day if it was pointed out that someone’s backstrokes or handstrokes were quick or slow. In Birmingham feedback like this is the norm. Ringing is a team exercise and it is important for everyone to work together to optimise the performance.

The session also covered the theory of Stedman and how this doubles principle extends very easily to 7, 9 and 11 bells. Despite its simplicity, it is ‘hyper-musical’ and even the most advanced ringers really enjoy ringing it, so it provides an excellent progression path to ringing on higher numbers. As Stephanie explained repeatedly through the day, if you can ring Stedman Doubles, you can ring Stedman Triples, and if you can ring Stedman Triples you can ring Stedman Caters, and if you can ring Stedman Caters you can ring Stedman Cinques, and you will be made very welcome at any of the established centres of 12 bell ringing up and down the country.

We then headed across to St Philip’s Cathedral for the first of our practical sessions. We started on the middle six of this excellent ring of bells. Some of the participants, including Andrew, ringing Stedman Doubles for the first time, with others practicing Cambridge Surprise Minor. We then finished with the participants ringing two at a time in some rounds and call changes on this crystal clear sounding ring of twelve, with Stephanie emphasising the need to get those backstrokes up and everyone, including some of the best 12 bell ringers in the Country, concentrating on the striking.

After just over an hour and half’s intensive practice we then walked the short distance to St Paul’s in the Jewellery quarter, home of the Birmingham School of Bell Ringing. By some strange coincidence St Paul’s in Birmingham is at the top of Ludgate Hill – or is it just a coincidence? The participants then had a further three hours of intense practice with the multi-award winning Birmingham band. Lunch was served in shifts in the teaching room below the ringing chamber, so that ringing could continue without a break, and everyone was able to see the Birmingham ringers ART Module 1 and Module 2 certificates proudly displayed in the wall.

During the afternoon, Andrew moved on to ringing his first few courses of Stedman Triples, whilst others progressed on to ringing Stedman Caters for the first time. Those practicing Cambridge also rang Primrose Surprise for the first time. They did this by concentrating on hunting across the lead end and being aware of how the method was related to Cambridge, rather than learning a whole new blue line. As Stephanie explained, the helpers faces lit up as this was the key to ringing many other methods simply and easily.

The day ended with an hour and a quarter’s ringing at St Martin’s in the Bull Ring. Two at a time the participants rang rounds and call changes on 16 bells, with the crack Birmingham band. Again, striking was emphasised, especially the need to get those backstrokes up and hold them there. We then rang plain hunting on 11, Stedman Caters and Stedman Cinques, with one of the participants ringing a very well struck course of Stedman Cinques for the very first time. The ringing room at St Martin’s is very historic and atmospheric and Stephanie pointed to the peal boards for the very first peals on fourteen and sixteen bells, and which several of those helping today had actually rung in.

Learning the Ropes is about mastering the basic skills of bell-handling and striking, right from the outset, and to reach Level 5 the requirements include being able to do this sufficiently well to have rung quarter peals in two different doubles methods and one minor method inside. The day showed that once these basic skills have been mastered, with good support it is possible to make very rapid progress indeed, all the way to ringing methods on 10 and 12 bells.

At the conclusion Stephanie and the Birmingham ringers were thanked for their hard work, both in organising the event and in ringing throughout the day, to inspire others and help put so much back into ringing.

Participants were presented with certificates and then had their photograph taken with members of the Birmingham band with the National 12 Bell Trophy in front, and left with a goody bag containing a commemorative mug for the day.

Next year it is planned to repeat the Masterclass with those who reach Level 5 this year, so you have just over three months to do this!

Roger Booth

Summer Funday and Tower Tours

On Sunday 6th September, between 2pm and 4pm there will be a rare opportunity to enjoy a behind the scenes guided tour of the tower at St Anne’s Church in Limehouse. Designed by Wren’s assistant Nicholas Hawksmoor and built 1714-1727, St Anne’s was one of twelve churches built to serve the new suburbs after the great fire of London, funded by a tax on coal coming up the River Thames. The church did not open till 1730 because a change in government repealed the tax before the work was complete.

This historic church was almost completely gutted by fire in 1850. It was restored between 1851 and 1854 by Philip Hardwick.

With support from the London Docklands Development Corporation, the roof and tower were again restored between 1983 and 1997, and completed when a ring of eight bells was finally added, these bells having previously hung in the tower of St Peter’s Church, Walworth in South London. Two more bells were cast at the Whitechapel Bellfoundry in 2004 to complete the present ring of ten bells.

Those coming on Sunday on Sunday afternoon will be able to climb to the top and see the restored Victorian clock mechanism and admire the view across the local area. The Docklands Ringers will also be on hand to demonstrate the bells being rung, you will be able to have a go. You will also be able to view inside the main roofspace and see how the Victorian timbers have been ingeniously strengthened with a delicate space age tubular steel framework, threaded between the old timbers.

If you can’t make 6th September, the Docklands Ringers will be holding a ‘taster evening’ on Wednesday 9th September between 7.30 and 9.00pm when you can also come up and see the tower and find out more about the bells.

Summer funday

Bring your sunglasses!!!

We have now spent two days at Bermondsey clearing out the handbell room and simulator area, repairing the ceiling and painting the staircase at the back of the organ leading up to the ringing room, with Mike, Morag and Luigi helping so far.

We are opening up the tower to visitors for the parish fair on Saturday afternoon 20th June and will be running some ‘taster’ events the following Tuesday, and another on the Tuesday after the Bermondsey Carnival on Saturday afternoon 4th July, and hopefully training some new ringers afterwards, so we want the tower to be spick and span and as welcoming as possible.

Today’s work has made a dramatic difference and as Mike says, you will need to bring your sunglasses next time you come to ring. It is just so bright!

We probably need to spend another two sessions freshening up the paintwork on the remaining walls and woodwork, and cleaning up afterwards, so if you know how to use a roller or paintbrush (or would like to learn). Please let Roger know and we will sort out some dates over the next five weeks.

Mike Todd says bring your sunglasses

Mike Todd says bring your sunglasses – The staircase behind the organ at St James’

New Webmaster for Docklands Ringers

Hello everyone!

For those who I’ve not met yet, I’m Rob Parker, ringer at Bermondsey, and today (somewhat belatedly) I’ve taken over the role of Docklands Ringers Webmaster from Andrew Larsen.

I’d like to thank Andrew for his handover, and for leaving me with what I hope it already a well oiled machine. We have an effective Yahoo Group and a interesting stream of News and Events on this website, which I hope will continue from all those who currently support it – and any new (or not so new ringers) are welcome to try their hand at posting news or updates from their towers or practices. If you’ve got any questions about what to do, just let me know.

I look forward to seeing many new posts over the coming months.

Equally, if you have new ringers attending your tower please do let me know their name and email address and I will be happy to add them to the website and the Yahoo Group. As before, just get in touch via the website.


Rob Parker
Docklands Ringers Webmaster

DRC website restored after hacking incident

The DRC website was reactivated earlier today after being offline following a hacking incident. The hosting service couldn’t say when the site was hacked as the logs have been overwritten, but apparently it was being used as a ‘zombie’ site to send out spam emails.

I have removed a couple of trojan files, reinstalled the underlying software and changed all the admin and system passwords. The hosting service have re-scanned the site and reactivated it.

Please let me know if you come across anything that doesn’t appear to work properly over the next few days and weeks.

Andrew Larsen (webmaster)