BE PART OF A TEAM
SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY
A NEW CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
SONNING CHURCH BELL RINGERS
St Andrew's, Sonning-on-Thames, Berkshire
KEEP YOUR MIND ACTIVE
HEALTHY, GENTLE EXERCISE
LEARN A NEW SKILL
ABOUT BELL RINGING
Ringers enjoy the physical and mental exercise, and the teamwork, that are involved in making their unique form of music.
Anyone can learn to ring
If you can count then you have the maths you need to be a change ringer. You don't need to be strong, nor do you need to be a musician. And you don't need to attend church services. You just need some physical co-ordination and a sense of rhythm. Oh, and are willing to climb 32 steps up the spiral staircase to the ringing room!
Some of our ringers have been ringing for 40 years or more and some are recent beginners. A minimum height is more important than age; children as young as ten years old can learn to ring.
Who can ring?
Men and women
Girls and boys
Young and old
Who rings the Sonning bells?
The Sonning Ringers are a voluntary group under the leadership of our Tower Captain.
The St. Andrew’s band is a very friendly group that welcomes new members.
As well as our regular weekly practice sessions and ringing for Sunday service, we sometimes arrange an outing to ring at other towers. We also enjoy an annual dinner with other local ringers who support us on a regular basis.
We ring the bells for:
Sunday services (ringing from 10 – 10.25 a.m.)
Weddings and funerals
Special celebrations such as New Year’s Eve
Civic occasions such as Armistice Day
Practice evening (Thursday 7.15 – 8.45 p.m.)
How do I learn to ring?
You must learn with a local band that has bell ringers experienced in training beginners. The St. Andrew's band has a wide range of experience in training. We arrange special practice sessions for beginners. These can be on a weekday, an evening, or at the weekend. The training is free and you do not need any equipment; just wear comfortable clothes that permit ease of movement.
If you are interested in learning to ring, and taking part in gentle, sociable exercise please Contact Us, or just come up the tower at 7.15 p.m. on a Thursday to meet us and see what we do.
DETAILS OF OUR BELLS
St. Andrew’s church has nine bells, eight making an octave in the tower and one, the clock bell, on the tower roof. The clock bell is by far the oldest; from the shape of the bell and the lettering on it, it has an approximate date of 1280.
The ring of eight bells in the tower form an octave. The lowest note is made by the tenor bell and the highest note by the treble. Four bells are set in the bell frame to swing at right angles to the other four in order to reduce possible sway and strain on the tower and its fittings.
The frame itself is cast iron and was installed by Taylors of Loughborough in 1912. At the same time the three lightest bells were recast by Taylors and the whole ring retuned.
Bell Weight Note Date Founder
1 5-1-13 Eb 1853 Recast by Taylors 1912
2 5-2-7 D 1778 Recast by Taylors 1912
3 6-2-27 C 1711 Recast by Taylors 1912
4 8-0-23 Bb 1759 Lester & Pack, London
5 7-3-9 Ab 1640 Ellis Knight 1, Reading
6 10-2-12 G 1640 Ellis Knight 1, Reading
7 13-3-26 F 1640 Ellis Knight 1, Reading
8 20-1-4 Eb 1641 Ellis Knight 1, Reading
How do bells work?
The bells are hung in a frame high in the church tower. Each bronze bell has a clapper inside, which swings with the bell. The bells are each attached to a wooden wheel, which has a rope running round it. The rope drops down into the ringing room below. The coloured part of the rope is called the sally.
Each bell is rung by a different person. When the ringer pulls on the sally the wheel and the bell rotate by 360°, and the clapper then hits the rim of the bell, making it ring once. When the ringer pulls the rope for a second time, the wheel rotates by 360° and the clapper hits the opposite side of the bell. This action of handstroke and backstroke is repeated until the ringing stops.
What do the bells play?
Although a group of bell ringers is called a band, English church bells do not play recognisable tunes.
The music that they make is created by ringing the bells one at a time in ever-changing sequences.
Each bell is numbered. In a ring the bell with highest note is number 1 and called the Treble and the bell with lowest note is the Tenor: The simplest pattern is to ring the bells in order, highest to lowest, like this:
Ringing the bells in numerical order is called rounds.
Ringers practise hard to ensure that a regular pulse is maintained throughout the round. To make the pattern more interesting, on the next pull of the bell ropes the order is varied, for example:
This is called change ringing and it developed in the seventeenth century.
Ringing the Changes
There are many different ways of varying the ringing order
(or ringing the changes).
Each piece of change ringing is called a method and each method is given a name (such as Plain Bob, Stedman, and London Surprise). A method always begins and ends with rounds, and then changes are introduced, using the mathematical sequence or method. This enables the ringers to know when they should ring their bells.