On Sunday November 11 2018, bells will ring out in unison from church towers across the country, as they did one hundred years earlier on Armistice Day.
At that time 1,100 bellringers were reported to have lost their lives in the First World War. Recent research by the Central Council of Bellringers has brought his total up to 1,400. The village of Edington in Wiltshire lost all 6 of its bellringers, as did Bamburgh in Northumberland. The campaign Ringing Remembers aims to recruit 1,400 new ringers to commemorate these lost men.
The sound of ringing bells on a Sunday morning is something we might take for granted without realising that change ringing is a very English tradition. Although practised worldwide, there are far more working bell towers in England, where it first developed, than anywhere else.
A ring of bells (usually 6 or 8) is classed as one instrument. All Souls has 8 bells, which were refurbished during the regeneration of the building in 2014. This means that tunes or ‘methods’ rung in the All Souls tower consist of 8 notes, played in a different sequence each time. There are over 40,000 possible combinations of these 8 numbers, so for those who practice method ringing – in which they must remember each sequence in order – this is quite a mental workout as well as physical one.
Andy Cope, tower captain at All Souls is recruiting ringers for the Ringing Remembers campaign. He’s already been working with local schools to try and enthuse younger generations about this unique part of our heritage, but anybody from any age is welcome to join, so long as they can manage the steep steps up to the bell room.