An idea to keep church bells ringing during this important time

Like most ringers, I am already missing ringing church bells with my band. I am especially sad that bands may not be ringing bells around this country for months. The sound of bells is important to those who ring them and to those who appreciate hearing them. So I had in idea. I approached the rector at St. Anne’s Limehouse (London), about ringing by myself before the normal Sunday service time. St. Anne’s is a short walk from where I live so I don’t have to use public transportation to get to the church. I plan to ring the service bell for 15 minutes and then chime on all 10 bells, one by one. The rector has approved and welcomed my plan. My hope is that ringers around the country can continue to ring the bells at their local church. In fact, we may be able to mobilise ringing at many more churches than those normally rung by bands, as we now just need one person per church to ring the bells. Please reach out to your local church and ask to ring before the normal Sunday service. Who knows, your ringing may inspire many new learners, when COVID-19 is no longer impacting the health of our family, friends and neighbours. I believe that we can help our communities as we continue to ring the bells. Ring locally, dear bell ringers of the UK!

Christmas Day Ringing at Southwark Cathedral

After ringing at Rotherhithe on Christmas morning, five of the ringers then went on to Southwark Cathedral.  We had received a call for help a week before as so many of their regular ringers were away.  We were able to make up the band to ring rounds and call changes on the front 8 and then the back 10.  Piers rang the 48cwt tenor (perhaps his best Christmas treat ever) and the bells rang out joyfully to welcome people to the Choral Eucharist.  The Dean of Southwark Cathedral also came up to welcome us and led us in prayer before the ringing.

Ladies come together to ring for Christmas 2019

It wasn’t planned or intentional, but by coincidence, the band ringing Christmas morning at Stepney was all female and – yes – we rang the back bells as well as the front 6. Many warm thanks and well done to Minmin, Josie, Chris, Helen, Elizabeth, Trisha, Éva and Sue. Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year to all!

Stepney Xmas Ladies

The band ringing Christmas Morning 2019 at Stepney

Do four quarters make a peal?

Bumped into Harriet at Foster Lane practice this evening. She tells me all four of the quarter peals in which she rang today (Docklands Quarter Peal Weekend) were scored! Okay, even if not technically a peal, on such a hot day to have cycled between the towers too earns epic respect.
Very well done, Harriet! Well done to all the bands and congrats to Guy and Bo on firsts, too!

Christmas 2018

We had five to ring at Stepney this morning and seven yesterday evening (thanks for double-handing, Dave!) – the first time the current band has rung for both the midnight mass and the Christmas morning service – thanks for organising, Greg!

Walking home from morning ringing today, I wasn’t sure if I heard faint bells –  my ears often turn indistinct sounds into distant bells in changes. But reaching my flat, stepping out to the balcony  it was unmistakable: call changes. How unexpected and nice! Was it Limehouse? Had Dorinda rallied sufficient ringers? Or was London so silent that I could hear Rotherhithe? The amazing and rare: London so at peace on Christmas morning – a soundscape no doubt aided by low cloud and the absence of any breeze.

It was later confirmed by Dorinda: Limehouse bells were rung for the morning service – and clearly heard in Stepney.

For me, Christmas Day is often a chance to do nothing at all but read a book all day. This Christmas, I’ve opened a book given to me by Jennifer earlier in the year: Those Greenland Days by Martin Lindsay, published by Penguin in 1932 about the expedition to survey Greenland prior to establishing the “great circle” route for trans-Atlantic flights.

Once read, I will pass this book on to my sister, an archaeologist whose current work is in Greenland.

Barely three pages in to chapter one, the Greenland expedition is setting off from St Katherine’s Dock and encountering what is now some of Docklands Ringers’ Heritage.

No doubt this expedition’s company heard Rotherhithe. If the Thames and east end were as silent on a Sunday in July 1930 as they are today, perhaps they might also have heard Hart Street, Bermondsey, St George-in-the-East, St Paul Shadwell (ringable then?) and maybe Stepney – but unlike me this morning, they would not have heard Limehouse, the tower having only acquired bells in very recent times.

Note a familiar ringing family name in the list of expedition members.

And a prominent tomb in Stepney churchyard bears the family name Lemon.

To have provided ringing for Christmas services where 12 years ago there was no band… to find in an unexpected place a reference to the sound of our bells nearly 90 years ago… Forgive me for being a credulous colonial, but I do often thrill to marvel at the layers and layers of connections circulating around this place and radiating outward through space and time, and to find myself living and in a small way participating in that nexus.

Thanks and Happy Christmas to the ringers of Docklands, and best wishes for 2019.