New generation of bell ringers sought for Suffolk as more needed to protect historic pastime

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Ka

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Kate Banks and Richard Finch. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

People across Suffolk are being urged to embrace bell ringing and take up the pastime – with the aim of every bell tower in Suffolk to be ringing out this November for the Centenary of the Armistice.

Kate Banks during a rehearsal at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Kate Banks during a rehearsal at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

A national campaign Ringing Remembers has been launched to help keep bell ringing alive, and as part of it a new generation of ringers is being sought to take up the tradition and keep the county’s 275 bell towers ringing.

The campaign aims to recruit at least 1,400 new ringers across the country this year, in memory of the 1,400 who died during the First World War, while Suffolk’s Guild of Ringers is aiming to get every working bell tower in the county ringing on Armistice Day.

Bell ringing captain Neville Whittell at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Bell ringing captain Neville Whittell at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Neal Dodge, public relations officers with the Suffolk Guild of Ringers said: “It’s a great social activity and you are always made very welcome.

“You get to see some great parts of the country and take part in a tradition that’s been going for more than 400 years.

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Ka

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Kate Banks and Richard Finch. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant


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“The guild has around 750 members and we cover around 275 bell towers, so there are more bells than ringers in Suffolk.”

Bell ringing uses a system known as method ringing which requires ringers to learn patterns that allows the peal of notes to change but still be recognised as a melody.

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Ka

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Kate Banks and Richard Finch. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

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John Girt, captain bell-ringer at St Margaret’s Church in Ipswich said it was the evolving nature of the hobby, alongside misconceptions about the level of strength needed that made learning the ropes appealing.

“If you can push a child on a swing you can do bell ringing,” the 82-year-old said.

The Suffolk Guild of Ringers wants to recruit at least 1,400 more bell ringers nationally this year

The Suffolk Guild of Ringers wants to recruit at least 1,400 more bell ringers nationally this year to mark the centenery of the First World War. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

“But it’s also a mental challenge in that once you have learnt the basics there are various combinations and numbers which go into hundreds and hundreds to learn, so it keeps your interest.

“It uses all your senses – touch, sight, sound, which makes it very relaxing.”

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Ka

Bell ringers at St Mary's Church, Kersey. Left to right: Kevin Ward, Neville Whittell, Bob Howe, Kate Banks and Richard Finch. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The bells from St Margaret’s are currently undergoing restoration, but once returned classes to educate youngsters in campanology will go ahead. The restored bells will even be able to utilise top of the line software to allow people to practice.

All ages are being encouraged to give it a go, with those interested able to speak to their local church or visit the guild’s website www.suffolkbells.org.uk to find out more. People interested do not need to be churchgoers to join.

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