“Hello, I was wondering if you could arrange a bell ringing experience for me and my friends!!”
I had been contacted, through ART, by someone from the St.Neots area who asked if it would be possible to arrange a “bell ringing experience”. She and some friends like to do something different every year and bell ringing was top of the list for 2019.
I had no hesitation is agreeing to arrange our standard tower tour for her group at Great Gransden, which comprises a visit to the ringing room, clock room and belfry. From the outset I explained that I couldn’t give them much bell ringing but could assure them of an educational and exciting visit, which would culminate in some basic 1:1 bell handling. The date agreed was Saturday 27 th April and for them to arrive at 9.30am.
Having never set foot in a bell tower before all members of the group were a little apprehensive, especially the organiser, Holly Jones, who was not sure what she had signed them up to. However, my confirmatory email to her a few days before assured them of an enjoyable morning.
My wife Sheila and I have done this tour many times. Our tower is fairly visitor friendly with all rooms accessible. We follow the Ecclesiastical Insurance guidelines for tower tours and go through safety procedures with visitors beforehand, which only take a moment.
The tour starts in the ringing room and visitors are immediately drawn to the tower arch screen to enjoy the panoramic view the church. Thereafter, there is interest in everything we take for granted as ringers, from bell ropes, photographs and striking competition certificates.
Then up to the clock room to see the 17 th century clock and chiming apparatus where the latter is demonstrated, and photographs taken. We have an exhibition of redundant clock parts, clappers, stays and sliders and I explain their relevance as one of the old clappers is handed around for them to get a feel for some heavy engineering.
Last stop is the belfry. There is a bit of a scramble to get in here but the platform alongside the bells makes for good viewing whilst I stand on the bell frame explaining how a bell works. We supply ear plugs so that a bell can be rung whilst they watch. Two-way radio is used to signal to Sheila to ring up No2 bell and further explanation is given. More questions and comments of amazement and further expressions of “I didn’t realise there was so much to bell ringing” are shared. This is another photo opportunity – definitely one for the album.
The bell is rung down and the tour is concluded by a careful descent of the tower where coffee and biscuits are served. We had arranged for our own ringers to come along at 10.30am to give some demonstration ringing and they soon mingle with our visitors chatting about their ringing experiences.
After refreshments we go up into the ringing room. First thing is to give a brief talk about safety and for them not to touch any ropes now that they have been lowered ready for use. We then ring up the bells and rattle off a few call changes and Plain Bob Doubles. (Many thanks to our enthusiastic team for turning out). The bells can be seen ringing via our CCTV and our visitors can then see the relationship between rope, ringer and bells. The sim has been switched on and although we didn’t demonstrate it we explained how we use it for training.
Finally, we invited our guests to be taught the basics of ringing at backstroke so that they can see what it is like to ring a bell, albeit with assistance. With a demonstration beforehand and the instruction “don’t pull hard!” those that tried were very successful.
We complete the “experience” at about 11.30am. Sheila has posted on Twitter as the tour progressed and a summary of the morning was put on Facebook where Holly later commented
“Would highly recommend this to anyone else interested in the workings of a bell tower and bell ringing. Fascinating!”
This was not a recruiting exercise but a brilliant PR opportunity and one which we as ringers were very excited about. Our guests enjoyed their visit and we were delighted to have the opportunity to share our enthusiasm and skill of all things bells and bell ringing.
More information about our tower can be found on our website
and on our Facebook page
We are always pleased to welcome ringers and non-ringers to our tower.
For more information please do not hesitate to contact Phillip George at firstname.lastname@example.org