Learn to Ring



Isn’t it just pulling on a rope?


Although many countries around the world use bells for many reasons; religious, festivals, celebrations, warnings, the technique developed in church bells in the UK is different from any other. Most other countries either hit a stationary bell with a clapper, or swing a clapper. In England in the 1600s a technique was developed and advanced that means the bell swings safely on an axle though just over 360 degrees. The clapper swing within the bell to strike the soundbow. This style of ringing was taken from the UK all over the world, to the USA, India, Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The vast majority of this style of ringing still happens in the UK. Bells are usually pretty heavy – from a few hundredweight up to 4 tons. You have to learn a safe technique to control the bell, and that is what we can teach you.


A great hobby!


Ringing is an absorbing hobby, with physical, intellectual and social aspects to the hobby it is very rewarding. As with any significant skill, it does take time to learn and our teachers know many techniques to suit all types of learners. We will help you develop your skill until it becomes like riding a bike, once learned, rarely forgotten.


Why do people learn to ring?


There are so many aspects to ringing, the comradery and teamwork, the sense of achievement when it goes well, learning an ancient and traditional art, the fun of going to different towers (all bells are slightly different),, sharing experiences over a pint after a practice, going on outings with friends.  Its a hobby that many of us find very addictive and yet at any point you can say ‘I have achieved the level I am happy with’.


How can I learn to ring?


See our secretary’s email address on the right of this page . We will put you in touch with someone in your area who can teach you this ancient and traditional art!



Image courtesy of Fortran Friends

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Alternatively Click here to go to ‘find your nearest teacher’ on the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART) website.

Teaching ringing 

At a recent refresher course for ringing trainers, we took some video of the stages of learning that can be used to teach people to ring. This is one of the methods of teaching ringing which has been more recently developed.

Many thanks to the Association of Ringing Teachers

Stage 1  Chiming

The bell starts ‘down’, hanging under it’s centre of rotation, with it’s mouth pointing towards the floor, where it is safest to be left between ringing sessions. We have to initially ring it ‘up’ because ringing is usually performed from a point where the bells mouth points towards the ceiling. (See the animated diagram above.)

The aim at the start is to get the bell swinging. The clapper is hinged within the bell, and swings with the bell initially so may well not hit the rim of the bell to make it chime. By checking the bell just before the top of it’s swing, the bell will stop moving but the clapper will continue within the bell and hit the sound bow making it sound. In our demonstration videos the clapper has been tied within the bell to keep it quiet and not annoy the neighbours.

To bring the bell back down to rest.

You obviously cant prevent the rope coming down so you have to slow the bell down when the rope is ascending – ie during the second part of it’s swing.

This is done by moving hands up the rope a little when the rope is slack on each swing so the bell cannot swing so much.

The handstroke develops.

As you pull harder and let the rope feed out at the top of your reach, the bell goes up (ie swings more and more.) At about half way up, because of the place the rope is passed through the wheel, the sally slows up and starts to bob at the extent of its swing. This will become the second occasion you catch and pull the rope called the handstroke. Intially you just get used to touching the sally (the thicker furry bit of the rope) when it ‘bobs’ in front of you.


Catching the sally

Here you can see the bell is very slightly higher but the ringer is catching the sally rather than just touching it. As you continue to pull on the tail end (the backstroke) the handstroke bobbing becomes more pronounced.

Eventually you can also pull on the sally as well. The further up you ring the bells, the less effort is needed, until when it gets to the top, many bells can be rung with a couple of fingers. Its about technique and control and not brute force.

Catching the sally with both hands – close to the balance.

The ringer has rung the bell up nearly to the balance point, where the bell could go over ‘top dead centre’. Control is needed to only just let it get to the point of balance. You can see everything is now a lot slower at the top of the rope’s travel.

To improve control it is necessary to use both hands on the sally in the same say both hands are used on the tail of the rope. The tail of the rope should be nipped/balanced between the thumb and side of the hand so it does not fall out of your hand. This is actually easier than it sounds. Now Hayley is ringing unaided.

Control of the bell is achieved by allowing the bell to go to the balance point and a tiny bit further. It can then be pulled back to ring the next strike at the time chosen by the ringer.

Other hints to give good rope handling

Taking coils



Passing the tail end – eg to get a learner out of trouble



Pulling the rope in a straight line


Image courtesy of Truro Cathedral

Truro Cathedral Bells

I used to be a ringer, can I take it up again?


We’d love to see you – Contact our Secretary, Hayley 


or your local tower (see the tower pages)