• Bell Notes - June 2013

    So there we were, in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin East Bergholt watching ringers ringing the bells in an outside shed and we can't ring them!! We rang at five churches - all St. Mary's bar St. Peters Sutton with two eight bell rings (St. John's has eight bells) and three six bell rings, with two lighter than ours and the rest heavier - that deals with the technical stuff.

    The St. John's bell ringers were on the move again on Saturday 10th May with an outing to the Essex / Suffolk border - as Ian said, it was a day 'with a lot of green in it'. This was the first one of the year for us and was organised by Nathan. Ringing outings come in all shapes and sizes where we visit many churches that are quite often off the tourist map, some with good reason but most can be little gems of scenery, buildings and history. We ring bells that are sometimes very different to ours as are the ways of getting to the ringing room, where we ring them. This time we did not have ladders but we did have some very small, restricted spiral staicases (Nathan by the way is six foot six inches tall!!). The cry nowadays is 'how many are ground floor rings?'

    When we got to East Bergholt, it brought back memories for me of past, very past, outings. When I first started ringing and going on outings we went by coach. I've never been sure how they filled them but I can sometimes remember forming a queue to go up and ring the bells that we were visiting. If we ever went to Suffolk, we always paid a visit to East Bergholt and no it was not for the culture of 'Constable Country' - his parents lived in the village and are buried in the church grounds. Was it the demise of Cardinal Wolsey or that the local Squire did not like the sound of bells or perhaps because the church had a ruined tower - well take your own pick of history. The bells are hung for ringing but do not need ropes as the frame is grounded; you just stand over them and swing them forwards and backwards by hand on the headstock. It sounds simple as the wave of air and sound passes just past your ear, as does the bell, one of the ringers called us 'rope pullers' as we never see the bells, we only see the rope. The ringer I was talking to I don't think believed me as I said I had rung them about five times in the past on five different visits as visiting ringers can't ring them now for Health and Safety and insurance reasons!! What I can remember is going to the pub over the road, the 'Red Lion', after ringing, shouting at everybody because you were deaf and had ringing in your ears; with your hands shaking violently when you tried to hold anything. The landlord would then say 'Oh! you've been ringing them bells then!' By the way, the East Bergholt ringer I was talking to, was a semi retired plane engineer who was also helping to reconstruct a replica of a ship called the 'Mayflower'. The ringers kindly gave us a really good demonstration of ringing the bells wearing ear defenders, the bells were very loud and brought a crowd to watch them.

    At the first church they had an afternoon 'plant sale' so it was a surprise when some of the ringers returned with a mini jungle. The second church at Hadleigh had an 'Art Exhibition' in the church. At one church we had to park in a beautiful wild flower meadow and another was at a farm shop. One church had a beautiful modern (14 years old) stained glass window and in one church each seat had a different colourful 'hassock' - if you don't know we have some in our side chapel - which gave the church a vibrant aspect.

    So what about the bells and the ringing? Well the bells were good and easy to ring, how it sounded outside might be open to debate, but we enjoyed it all even though it was tiring as we only had nine ringers (perhaps next time you could be the tenth) and we rang for about two and a half hours in all. When the ringers were talking the next day, the highlight seemed to be lunch at the 'Red Lion'. We in fact did two pubs in East Bergholt, the other before we left for home, while some did a visit to 'Flatford Mil'.

    But the 'Highlights' were at the first pub, they had a Belgian breed of dog called 'Stink' - must be his nickname - who weighed over 10 stone and was large. At the other it was a three month old posh ginger kitten called Monty who got lots of Oh's! and Ah's! from everyone as he was so small and fluffy. The weather: well we were told it was going to rain all day. Thankfully it didn't, most of the day it was dry with some sun - and Ian was right, everything did seem to have a new clean green overcoat on! The next ringing outing is in October.

    Kersey, St Mary - 8 bells - tenor 14 cwt in G

    Hadleigh, St Mary - 8 bells - tenor 22 cwt in D

    East Bergholt, St Mary the Virgin - 5 bells - tenor 22 cwt in D

    Higham, St Mary - 6 bells - tenor 9 cwt in A

    Stratford St Mary, St Mary - 6 bells - tenor 16 cwt in F

    Sutton, St Peter - 6 bells - tenor 11 cwt in G

    Michael Waring


Bellringing at St. John's Leytonstone


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