The Craft of Bellringing
It is a popular misconception that great strength is needed to ring the bells. The real skill in ringing is in 'ropesight' - in the ability to see what all the other bells are doing, in listening to each bell, in memorising methods and in the ability to react instantly to the conductor's calls. It's more mental than muscular!
When ready for ringing the bells are hung with their open mouths upwards. When they are pulled off, their momentum carries them back almost to the vertical. The ringer has only to add the extra energy to get the bell back to top-dead-centre, which we call ' on balance'. Acquiring the knack to do this takes a few weeks of practice. It is known as acquiring 'bell control'.
The next stage is to ring the bell in time with the other ringers. It takes about two seconds for the six bells to ring one 'change', so the gap between the bells striking is only about a third of a second. Despite this , it is very obvious to the ear if a bell is rung unevenly. Again it is an acquired knack to ring in time.
The first skill is to ring smoothly in the order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - known as 'rounds'. Every piece or ringing starts this way. When rounds are smooth, the conductor can try new things.
Here the conductor instructs two bells to change places. For example, the conductor calls '"three to one", so the three rings after the treble, and in front of the two. The two 'holds up' to make room for him. The new order is 1, 3, 2, 4, 5, 6. The six bells can be rung in 720 sequences, known as 'changes'.
This is the simplest method, in which all six bells ring the same pattern. Plain Hunt is the basis of all the more complicated methods.
Plain Hunt is varied by two bells 'dodging' (changing places with each other) or by ringing two or more strokes in the same place. Ringers memorise the pattern, known as 'the blue line'. In a simple method the plain course may consist of only 40 changes. To extend this further, the conductor may call "Bob" or "single" which changes the sequence, but keeps the ringers on the same 'blue line'. There are hundreds of methods, but each tower has its own repertoire of just a few. At Nutfield the popular methods are Plain Bob, Bob Minor, Grandsire and Stedman.