St. Mary’s Walberton has had a ring of 6 bells for just over 100 years, five being cast in 1903 and the last in 1908, this was given in memory of Rev. W. P. Crawley, vicar from 1899 to 1901. Before that there were just three bells, reported to be ‘three very bad bells’ in 1724, which were recast during the 1903 work. The bells are numbered 1 – 6 from the lightest, also called the treble, down to the heaviest, also called the tenor. The weights of bells are still given in hundredweights, with twenty hundredweights to the ton. (1 Cwt is approximately 50 Kg.)
The details of our bells:
Cwt Qtr lb Cast Originally cast
Treble 3 3 24 1908
2nd 4 2 8 1903 1712
3rd 5 2 12 1903 1572
4th 5 3 26 1903 1640
5th 7 3 13 1903
Tenor 10 3 15 1903
Our bells can be rung in two ways. Firstly, with the bells hanging mouth down and being hit with chiming hammers operated by the ropes in the frame on the wall and also with the bells being swung full circle, round one way and then back the other giving the two strokes, handstroke and backstroke. To be able to ring full circle the bells first have to be rung ‘up’ from the mouth down position to being rested or ‘stood’ in the mouth up position. With the bells swinging full circle we are not able to ring tunes but instead ring ‘changes’ when each bell will just move up or down one position at a time in the changing sequence. The simplest form of change ringing is plain hunt followed by different ‘methods’ such as Plain Bob, Grandsire, Stedman and Cambridge. To ring these methods we do not learn long strings of numbers but rather just the pattern the bell makes as it follows its path amongst the other bells.
We are always keen to get new ringers, and when learning to ring you would first have to learn how to handle and control the bell. This is usually done with a silenced bell at a separate time form the main practice. This would take some weeks and would be taught in stages.
Once able to handle a bell you would come to the main practice on Thursdays from 7.30. You would first learn just to ring in ‘rounds’ with the bells following each other down the scale and then call changes, where one pair of bells is swopped over in the sequence at a time according to the instructions called out by the conductor. We ring on Sundays from 5.15 to 6.00 and on special occasions.
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