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What is Church Bell Ringing?

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crowland abbey

The earliest ring of bells known to have existed in England was around AD900 at Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire. Medieval bells are being rung in churches to this day, some dating from the eleventh century. The way in which we ring them today did not become common practice until the early sixteenth century though, and change ringing, the scientific part of our hobby, did not come into popular use until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Why Are Bells Rung?

Simply put, church bells are rung to signify the start of a church service, and are usually rung for several minutes before the service starts. The bells are often rung for other occasions within the church, such as for weddings and funerals. The solemn tolling of a single bell to signify the passing away of an individual was made famous in Dorothy L Sayers' novel "The Nine Taylors", and more recently with the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. As with many traditions though, the type of ringing for occasions such as funerals and weddings does vary throughout the country.

Why do people ring bells?

The reasons why individuals take up this hobby are as numerous as the people who ring the bells. For some people it is as a service to the church, indeed for many people this is an important aspect.

As with many past-times the social side of ringing is what attracts people. Many towers organise social events outside of the tower, both ringing orientated and not. The annual tour is often the favourite as an opportunity to visit different places, ring on different bells, and have a day out with friends. The various ringing associations and guilds across the country also provide social activities, from a monthly ringing meeting or practice, to formal dinners. Another social aspect is that a bell ringer can go to almost any tower in the country and they will be welcomed. This welcome also often includes a trip to the pub after the practice.

There is always something to learn with bell ringing. The rest of these pages are just a simple explanation and do not really demonstrate the mental challenge that it poses. The first few months of learning concentrate on the physical aspect, but once that is achieved the challenges are more mentally based. But just as you could always learn more, you can also stay at the level you are now, it is entirely up to you.

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