More bell-ringers needed - as church re-creates brothers' famous peal

Bell ringing celebrations in Leiston in 2011 in memory of the Bailey brothers

St Margaret's Church in Leiston is set to mark the centenary of a special peal by the Bailey brothers. This photo shows a previous bell-ringing celebration to honour the brothers, in 2011 - Credit: Archant

An appeal is going out for more people to train as bell-ringers - as two performances at a Suffolk church mark a special centenary.

The two marathon bell-ringing sessions at St Margaret's Church in Leiston, on August 25 and September 1, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of an amazing peal of bells by the town's Bailey brothers.

The 11 Bailey brothers of Leiston, six of whom rang a famous handbell peal

The 11 Bailey brothers of Leiston, six of whom rang a famous handbell peal - Credit: The Suffolk Guild of Ringers History Project,

It is hoped the performances  will help to inspire more people to take up the pastime, after Suffolk saw a significant fall-off in numbers following lockdown. 

Many church bells were silent for up to 18 months, and were only allowed to be rung again from July 19.

Suffolk Guild of Ringers ringing master Katharine Salter, from Ipswich, said: "Bell-ringing, like many things, has been hit hard by the pandemic.


You may also want to watch:


"We need more people to come forward and we can arrange training for them, maybe even in their local church.”

On August 25, 1921, six brothers from the same family, the Baileys, rang a continuous peal of more than 5,000 different rows, or patterns of bells, on 12 hand bells.

Most Read

The Baileys were a prominent Leiston family, with a total of 11 brothers, nine of whom worked at Richard Garrett and Sons engineers. 

They included outstanding footballers and various brothers were quoits players, gymnasts and in the Territorial Army.

Six of them, Allen, Frederick, Ernest, Charles, James and Edgar, took part in the original event.

Bell ringer Katharine Salter has arranged special chimes in memory of Sir Thomas Slade

Katharine Salter, Suffolk Guild of Ringers ringing master - Credit: Katharine Salter

Katharine, who is writing a book about the history of the Suffolk Guild, said: "The method they rang, Stedman Cinques, was generally only rung in metropolitan centres where they had a strong band and a 12-bell tower.

"To work up to and complete this was a significant achievement. It is more notable as this was a single family effort in rural Suffolk.”

A Suffolk Guild band will ring a peal on the church bells at Leiston at around 10am on Wednesday, August 25.

Then a visiting band, led by John Loveless, originally from Bures, will ring a handbell peal of Stedman Cinques, like the original, in the church at the same time on September 1.

On that occasion, there will also be a small exhibition about the Bailey brothers and a chance to find out more about taking up bell-ringing.

The six Bailey brothers of Leiston who rang the famous handbell peal, which is being re-created

The six Bailey brothers of Leiston who rang the famous handbell peal, which is being re-created - Credit: The Suffolk Guild of Ringers History Project

In 2011, a previous special event was held at St Margaret's Church to mark the centenary of another famous peal by the Bailey brothers, when eight of them completed a full peal in just under three hours on October 21, 1911.

Rowan Wilson, chair of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, who is based at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, said: "We are so pleased to be able to mark this centenary with two performances.

"The lockdowns have been a challenging period for bell ringing, but I'm hopeful that ringers from across the county are now feeling more confident to get back to their local towers."

The Bailey brothers of Leiston were involved in local football as well as bell ringing

The Bailey brothers of Leiston were involved in local football as well as bell ringing - Credit: The Suffolk Guild of Ringers History Project

She added: "We need more people to come forward. Some will have retired and others will have found something else to do.

“It has become quite an elderly pastime and we need to get some younger people involved.”

To find out more about opportunities in bell-ringing, go to the website.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter