Luigi scores quarter on treble to reach level 3

By scoring a quarter of Doubles on the Treble for the evening service on 5th March at Christchurch, Isle of Dogs, Luigi Vicenti has completed Level 3 of ART’s ‘Learning the Ropes’ training scheme.

Level 3 takes ringers from call changes, building on kaleidoscope exercises through to ringing the treble and covering to methods. The level is passed when the ringer can do this sufficiently well to score two quarter peals at least one of which must be the treble to Doubles (or on higher numbers). The second can be ringing the tenor behind. Other activities include raising and lowering in peal.

Lugi and Guseppina started learning to ring in early 2013, as a result of the ‘Ring for Fitness’ publicity campaign initiated by the Churches Conservation Trust, in conjunction with the Ringing Foundation and Association of Ringing Teachers (ART). Their closest tower is St Mary Magdalene Woolwich, although the nearest with regular ringing is St Alfege, Greenwich. They have been regular visitors to the Tuesday practices at St James Bermondsey over the past four years.

We look forward to helping them complete the remaining two levels of Learning the Ropes, by which time they will be ringing Plain Bob and Grandsire inside to quarter peal standard. We also look forward to helping our other learners and visitors to achieve more passes over the coming months.

Virtual reality can help improve your ringing

The video images are very realistic

There have been significant advances in simulator technology in recent years, and we are welcoming anyone who would like to try out the new technology to come to our early practice at St James’ Bermondsey from 6.30pm on Tuesdays.

Previously simulators relied on listening alone, but the latest technology makes use of videos of real people to create a virtual reality effect. You can practice improving your ropesight, and ‘flashes’ can come up on the screen to help you see which bell you should be following.

There are also new features to record your ringing and play it back, with excellent graphics to show you how well you struck your bell in each row. With these graphics you can diagnose common striking problems such as consistently ringing quicker on one stroke and slower on another, and difficulties getting your open handstroke leads in the right place.

Thanks to grants from the Surrey Association and the Docklands Ringing Centre, a £400 award from the Association of Ringing Teachers, and technical input from the Whiting Society, we now have three ‘workstations’ set up in the ringing room at St James’, each with its own set of headphones. This means that up to three people can practice at a time, without disturbing one another, and they can all be practicing different things, from rounds to complex methods!

We are using our early practice on Tuesdays to teach several new ringers and help them progress into method ringing, and the simulator facility is proving quite popular. However, as we have three workstations we can always accommodate a few more people. As always, you will also be very welcome to stay on to our regular practice from 7.30pm (or a little later if the simulator workstations are in heavy use), and to the Gregorian pub afterwards, on your way back to the Tube!

Practicing on a workstation with headphones


Freda Cannon 1928 – 2017

Freda (bottom right) at the Bermondsey band Christmas party, probably in 1993 – didn’t everyone look young!

A series of eleven quarter peals have been rung to mark the passing of Freda Cannon, former Tower Captain at Greenwich, who was very helpful in establishing the band at Bermondsey in the early years of the Docklands Ringing Centre. Freda was also very active within the Ladies Guild and was National President 1983-1985.

Freda learnt to ring in September 1954 at Greenwich when the church and its peal of ten bells had been restored after damage during World War 2, and a new local band was formed. Freda rang many quarter peals over the years, the last one being of 1,260 Grandsire Triples at Lewisham on 6th June 2004.

In February 1991, when the new ring of six bells at Bermondsey were installed to replace the previously derelict ring of ten, there were close links with the neighbouring bands at Greenwich, Camberwell and Poplar, and Freda was one of a group of experienced ringers that came along every week, twice a week in the initial stages, to teach people to ring. She rang in the first quarter on the new bells at St James after they were augmented from six to eight in November 1991 (1,288 Grandsire Triples) and thanks to her and the others support many of the new local band were soon ringing methods competently and their first quarters within around a year of learning to ring.

Freda continued to come to ring at Bermondsey on Tuesdays until ill health prevented her coming about ten years ago. Her funeral was at St Alfege Greenwich on Tuesday 14th February 2017.

May she rest in peace.

Fred Sanwell RIP

Fred covering on the tenor (right) with then tower captain Martin Crick (now of Richmond) on the 7th.

Fred Sanwell RIP

Fred was a valued member of the band of local people that rang the bells at St Mary’s Rotherhithe, after they were restored in 1996-9.

The old heavy ring of eight at Saint Mary’s went in and out of being ringable several times, with tower sway causing structural problems. During the 1970s a band of ringers affectionately known as the ‘flying circus’ included St Mary’s in their Sunday morning rota, which stretched from Kensington in the West to Deptford in the East. After the 1987 hurricane which left the Isle of Dogs bells unringable, ringing resumed at St Mary’s, although Fred did not ring with us at that time. St Mary’s bells became unringable again, just before the old bells at St James’s Bermondsey were replaced in 1990.

Fred’s profession was a lift engineer, and he had recently retired when St Mary’s were reduced in weight and lowered in the tower to reduce the sway, in 1996-9. Fred was one of a group of local people who came forward at that time to ring and there is a plaque recording his name and the other local ringers who rang for the millennium. Fred himself must have learnt to ring in the 1960’s, although we know very little about the local band then, but as he had rung before he could ring more or less straight away.

Fred was an active member of the church, reinforcing the link with the local community, and was always there for Thursday practices and Sunday morning ringing. Unfortunately, Fred suffered a stroke about 15 years ago, so his second ringing career was cut short, and this was a significant loss for the local band.

His funeral was on 30 January 2017 and a  half muffled quarter peal was rung prior to the service, at his request.



New CCTV at Bermondsey

The new CCTV screens

The new CCTV screens

Remembrance Sunday 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of the installation of the current ring of eight bells at St James Bermondsey. The 25th anniversary was marked by a short ceremony during the morning service, when the vicar Canon Gary Jenkins invited the ringers to the front and in the talk that followed displayed some pictures of the local band and some before and after pictures of the restoration on the large LCD screens that go down either side of the nave.

Earlier in the year the Docklands Ringers had won a £400 prize award from The Association of Ringing Teachers for ‘Innovation in Social Media’ to recruit new ringers. We have used this award, together with a £200 grant from the Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers “Fellowship Fund’, some of our own funds and money donated by own ringers to install a set of four CCTV cameras, compatible with the audio-visual system in the church. For the first time, we were therefore able to beam live video pictures of the ringers and the moving bells down into the church at the end of the service. Members of the congregation were also invited to come up to the ringing chamber and meet the ringers and some had a go at ringing back strokes. The clergy, churchwardens and members of the congregation were all very impressed.

The previous day we held a reunion for our ringers, with a meal in the local pub at the corner of the churchyard. Over the last 25 years we have taught many people to handle at Bermondsey and of these 27 have gone on to become regular members of the Sunday band. In addition, a steady stream of ready-made ringers have moved into the area, and we have unearthed some lapsed ringers. This has resulted in a further 22 people becoming members of our regular Sunday band. That’s a total of 49 ringers – almost two new ringers a year. Of these 55% have been taught to handle locally.

We have also been able to extend the skills of those 22 ready-made ringers, many coming as rounds and call change ringers and going on to ring surprise. We have also made a habit of welcoming a significant number of regular visitors to our practices and helped them to progress too, even though they have not become members of our Sunday band.

Bermondsey is very much an urban parish, and there is a high turnover in the local population. Not only do we find that we have attracted a steady stream of ready-made ringers, but a significant proportion our ringers move away after a period of time. About 36% of our Sunday band have moved away over the last 25 years, although we know that at least a third of them have joined a band elsewhere. Another third have moved overseas, the most interesting coincidence being Chris and Jillan Rusch, who joined the band at St James Cathedral, Toronto, Canada. The back ten of this ring of twelve being the old Bermondsey ring of ten. Two of our band have also gone on to be tower captains in their new towers.

A small percentage of our Sunday band have gone on to join other bands nearby in London and about 30% of our regular band still live locally, but are no longer active for various reasons. We do try to keep in touch with all our lapsed ringers and hope that they will return to ringing when circumstances permit. For example, we were very pleased that Angela Owusu who learnt as a teenager 25 years ago now has an eleven year old daughter. She came to our reunion and is keen to learn, so we have put both of them in touch with their local tower.


Over the last 25 years we have not rung a Sunday band peal, although with our extended practice night band we have rung peals of Bob Major at Bermondsey and Walworth, a Peal of Grandsire Triples at Rotherhithe and a peal of Doubles at Bermondsey. We have also rung a considerable number of quarters from Bob Doubles up to Surprise Major. We were also pleased to hear at the weekend that Janet Ritterman one of our former ringers had rung her first peal (Yorkshire Major inside) at the first attempt and she was very grateful for the all help that we gave her earlier in her ringing career.

The reason for the restoration was that previous heavy ring of ten bells (tenor 28 cwt) installed in 1829 had become virtually unringable. The opportunity was taken to replace them with the current ring of eight (tenor 14 cwt), as a part of a major refurbishment of the church. Bermondsey has a strong local community, with a wide range of skills on tap, and many local parishioners literally mucked in and became involved in the project to help keep the cost down. Remarkably the balance of £65,000 needed to complete the project was raised within 12 months. Many of those who mucked in went on to learn to ring on their bells, and at one stage the majority of the PCC were ringers.

The challenges of maintaining a Sunday band over the last 25 years in a parish like Bermondsey are probably no different to these in many urban parishes up and down the country. The key to our success has been a strong commitment to recruiting new ringers and helping them progress up the ladder to ringing surprise, if they wish to progress that far. However, all members of the band are valued, even if they don’t become surprise ringers. We have also tried to strike a balance between the needs of our local band and those of our visitors, so that everyone puts something back. We have seen so many other bands collapse because they seem to lose touch with their local community and put less effort into recruiting and training new local ringers.

We are very grateful to the Surrey Association for their fellowship grant. Having restored so many rings of bells in Surrey, we are sure that their innovative new fund will ensure that those restored rings, like Bermondsey (and our neighbouring towers of Rotherhithe, Walworth and Camberwell) will have local bands to ring them well into the future. We are also grateful to the Association of Ringing Teachers for the support they have given us, not only through the £400 prize, but also their advice and encouragement over the recent years. Having taught quite a few people to ring we thought we knew it all, but we have learnt a lot and are probably now better teachers as a result.

The new video facilities and the work we are also doing to upgrade our simulator system will help us connect better with our congregation, raise local awareness and presence of the ringers, continue to recruit new ringers and to better train the next generation of ringers for the local band.

The tower in scaffold. The hoist was used to remove the old bells and frame and install the new frame

The tower in scaffold. The hoist was used to remove the old bells and frame and install the new frame

The last of the bells is craned into the tower

The last of the bells is craned into the tower