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Hundreds of bellringers heading to Norwich for national contest

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 June 2015

Bellringing at St Peter Mancroft where the 300th anniversary of the first peal will be celebrated during 2015.
Guild master Simon Rudd.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Bellringing at St Peter Mancroft where the 300th anniversary of the first peal will be celebrated during 2015. Guild master Simon Rudd. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

More than 500 bellringers from across the country will be heading to Norwich at the end of the month, for the biggest event in the country's ringing calendar.

The Mancroft Appeal 300

In 1715, Norwich ringers rang the world’s first true peal at St Peter Mancroft - a remarkable achievement which means Norwich played a crucial role in influencing bellringing throughout the world.

300 years on, the St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers is marking the anniversary by fundraising around £380,000, which includes £335,000 towards strengthening the bell frame and installing a new ringing floor at a higher level in the tower in order to make space for the £45,000 installation of a state-of-the-art ringing teaching and heritage centre (RTHC).

The centre will house eight “dumb bells”, linked to computer software, which will enable novice and developing ringers to learn with relative physical ease and without disturbing the public.

So far, around £55,000 has been pledged towards this total. www.mancroftappeal300.co.uk

The final of the National Twelve Bell Striking Contest will be held at St Peter Mancroft Church on June 27, when 10 of the best teams of ringers from across the country, plus several hundred visiting ringers will visit the city.

Teams from Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, Derby, Leeds, London and Towcester will join the team from the St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers, to compete for the Taylor Trophy.

Simon Rudd, master of the St Peter Guild of Ringers, said the event had been planned several years ago, to coincide with the 300th anniversary of when the “first true peal” in the world took place in Norwich at St Peter Mancroft in 1715.

He said: “Two or three years ago, we realised this would be an important year for us and we invited the competition to come and they accepted our invitation.

Change ringing

English bell ringing is called full-circle ringing, as the bell’s mechanism on a wheel allows it to rotate 360 degrees.

Change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a series of mathematical patterns called “changes” and it is possible for the bell ringers to adjust the time at which they pull their rope to control the speed of striking to produce the pattern of changes.

Change ringing differs from many other forms of campanology in that no attempt is made to produce a conventional melody.

The term peal or “full peal” was applied to when ringers successfully ring a tower’s bells in every possible order without repeating any of the sequences.

A full peal, often means ringing 5,040 sequences over a period of around three hours, which requires stamina as well as intense concentration and co-ordination from every ringer.

While St Peter Mancroft has 12 bells, to attempt a “long-length peal” or “extent” of even just eight bells would involve 40,230 changes and the last time this was run on tower bells it took 18 hours.

In addition to ordinary peals, ringers often ring quarter-peals, which are far easier to ring and take around 45 minutes to complete.

Bell ringing is performed entirely from memory, with ringers learning the path that their bell makes through the sequence. These sequences are known as “methods” and have names such as Plain Bob Minor and Cambridge Major.

“It’s taken us a lot of work to prepare for it, and on the day we imagine more than 500 ringers will come to the city.”

It is hoped that hosting the contest will also help to raise the profile of the guild’s Mancroft Appeal 300, which aims to raise £385,000 towards improvements at the church and to create a teaching and resource centre for bell ringing. The church boasts a peal board which is the earliest known record of a “full peal”, which was successfully completed by its ringers in 1715.

The contest draw for the order in which teams will compete will be conducted at 11am by Caroline Jarrold and ringing will take place throughout the day from 11.30am, with the trophy presented to the winning team by Marquess Townshend in The Forum at 6pm.

Teams will have half an hour in which to have a small practice before performing the competition piece, Lincolnshire Surprise Maximus, which will involve ringing 288 “changes” on the 12 bells and which should take around 12 to 13 minutes.

Bell ringing at St Peter Mancroft where the 300th anniversary of the first peal will be celebrated during 2015.
Steeple keeper Peter Sawyer with the bells.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Bell ringing at St Peter Mancroft where the 300th anniversary of the first peal will be celebrated during 2015. Steeple keeper Peter Sawyer with the bells. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

The judging format includes a computer which analyses the accuracy of ringing, as well as three human judges, with a combination of these used to compile the final results.

The team from Birmingham are the favourites, having won every year from 2010 to 2014.

Mr Rudd said: “We are very much the underdogs as we got a place in the final because we are the hosts, so we haven’t had to qualify.

“We will do our best and aim to have a fun day but we have no pretensions about whether we are going to win or not.”

Five teams have already visited the church, while another four are due to each enjoy an hour and half practice on St Peter Mancroft’s bells this weekend.

Do you have a story about a national event taking place in Norfolk? Call reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772474.

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