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What is Ringing?Join UsRinging in Durham

What is Ringing

An animation of full circle ringing. Credit to OUSCR.

Church bells are rung to call people to worship, and the act of campanology has been practised for thousands of years. The first use of large bells is credited to Bishop Paulinus of Nora near Naples. His province of Campania gave the name campanile to bell-towers, and subsequently the English word campanology.

By 1400, many English parish churches had 3 or more bells swinging to and fro in the church tower on special occasions. At first the bells were sounded haphazardly, as still happens in most European countries, but by 1600 bells were being rung full-circle. Change ringing, where bells change places in mathematical patterns, began to spread quickly throughout the English speaking world.

Today, the art of ‘full circle’ ringing is thriving in Britain (where there are over 5000 towers) and in Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Southern Africa and at 200-300 towers in Northern Italy.

There are many groups of people who ring bells – you do not have to be hugely strong, mathematical, fantastically musical, have any rhythm, or any religious convictions – DUSCR welcomes anybody and everybody!

It does take a while to learn to handle a bell, but after that you have endless opportunities open to you and you will be made welcome wherever you go to ring.

In the animation is what physically happens when someone is ringing a bell “full circle”. The clapper hits the side of the bell (known as the sound bow) after the bell has rotated about 300 degrees, or when the sally (fluffy bit on the rope) or the tail end passes the ringer’s face. It usually takes from 1 to 2 seconds for a bell to rotate 360 degrees, depending on the size of the bell.

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Handbell practices are often a social occasion themselves! Previously scones with jam and cream have made an appearance. It seems some people don’t know that jam is supposed to go on first, then the cream…Handbell practices are often a social occasion themselves! Previously scones with jam and cream have made an appearance. It seems some people don’t know that jam is supposed to go on first, then the cream…

As a society, DUSCR practices once a week during term time. These practices take place on Wednesday nights from 19:30 – 21:00 at St. Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth, about five miles outside Durham. Details about the bells at Brancepeth are included in the table below. Transport for these practices is always arranged by the society.

BellDiameterFounderDateWeightNote
Treble2′-0″John Taylor, Lboro18883-0-4F♯
22′-1 1/2″John Taylor, Lboro20033-2-18F
32′-3″John Taylor, Lboro18884-0-6D♯
42′-5 1/2″John Taylor, Lboro18884-3-11C♯
52′-8″John Taylor, Lboro18886-0-2B
62′-9 1/2″John Taylor, Lboro20037-1-23A♯
73′-1 1/2″John Taylor, Lboro18889-1-24G♯
Tenor3′-7″John Taylor, Lboro200314-1-13F♯

Of course we don’t only exist to ring bells for services and practice nights. There’s more to the society than that, which is why we have a very active social life outside of ringing – so you can look forward to handbells, board game nights and, of course, pub trips throughout the year.

We are a mixed bunch of people from all walks of life, and we are not all experienced ringers. We welcome ringers of all standards, including total beginners, who are given individual tuition so that they can be integrated into the main band as soon as they can ring their bell in time with others.

If you are still unsure, come along on a Wednesday night and give it a go! If you have any questions to ask, then please don’t hesitate to contact one of the executive committee.

Other Ringing in Durham

There are plenty of other towers in Durham and you will often find some of our members at each local practice throughout the week.

St. Oswald, Durham

8 Bells (12-3-6 in F♯)

Ringing Times

Sunday 10:30 – 11:00 Parish Communion
Sunday 17:30 – 18:00 Evensong (occasional)
Monday 19:30 – 21:00 Practice

Tower Contact: Chris Mansfield 
Website: www.oswaldsbells.org.uk

St Nicholas, Durham

6 Bells (9-3-23 in A)

Ringing Times

Sunday 10:30 – 11:00 Parish Communion
Wednesday 19:30 – 21:00 Practice

Tower Contact: Michael Lamb

Durham Cathedral

10 Bells (28-0-6 in D)

Ringing Times

Sunday 09:15 – 10:00 Matins
Sunday 14:30 – 15:30 Evensong (occasional)
Thursday 19:30 – 21:00 Practice (1st, 3rd and 5th of the month)

Tower Contact: Ellen Crabtree 
Website: www.durhambellringers.org.uk

St. Mary the Virgin, Shincliffe

6 Bells (4-0-14 in D)

Ringing Times

Sunday 09:00 – 09:30 Parish Communion
Tuesday 19:30 – 21:00 Practice

Tower Contact: Jean Woodward