Dec 27 2007
I have recently just finished helping teach a beginners course for Church Bell Ringing. It was a ten week adult education evening class that gave the learners a very broad over view of what bell ringing is about, getting them ringing hand bells and also giving them a chance to ring the church bells. The course has been rung for several years now and the learners on this years course have really shone through and a few have even got to the stage of ringing rounds and call changes.
NB. For the rest of this article I’m going to talking in terms of open handstroke lead ringing, i.e. leaving a one-bell gap between last bell backstroke and first bell handstroke.
Once you progress past the basic handling of a bell and start ringing methods, it is assumed that you need no further tutoring on how to control the bell and get it striking at the right time. However, I’m sure more than a few ringers out there are tired of being told:
Pull your back stroke in!
What I have noticed is that invariably when someone is told to pull their backstroke in (ringing closer to the bell before them on backstroke) they then start clashing with the bell before them at handstroke. This, I believe, is because most learners are never actually told that ringing a bell is an asymmetrical movement. That is to say that the length of time that you hold up at backstroke is not the same as the length of time that you hold up at handstroke.
The reason for this is that there are an un-even number of stroke pull whole pull – each bell pulling handstroke and backstroke. This is because of the one-bell gap that is left between the last bell backstroke and the first bell handstroke:
The numbers above represent 6 bells ringing two whole pulls, handstroke and backstroke. The first bell has to hold up slightly at handstroke in order to leave the gap which means that all the other bells have to hold up slightly. At backstroke there is no gap and therefore the first bell does not need to hold up, meaning the other bells don’t need to hold-up.
I believe it is this concept of handstroke and backstroke being different in timing, and learners not being taught this that causes most of the problems. Learners are taught about the theory of open handstroke leading and that you need to leave the gap but they are not told what it means for the actual ringing motion.