Staplehurst Bellringers Report February 2024

NEWS FROM THE TOWER

All Saints Tower

As mentioned last month four of our recruits are now ringing regularly for Sunday Service and another three are at various stages of training. After the loss of several ringers following the pandemic this is indeed good news and means that we are now able to ring all 10 of our bells much more often.

Here at Staplehurst it has long been our philosophy to recruit and train ringers for the future. Many of us who did return after Covid are of, shall we say, more mature years and sadly age eventually catches up with even the fittest of ringers. It is pleasing therefore that we now have a band of mixed ages, including two teenagers, ready to take ringing at Staplehurst forward in years to come.

Sue Bassett has been largely responsible for the training of our recruits and we are grateful for all the time and effort she continues to put in. Not only this, but she is also heavily involved in a Learning Hub for new ringers held regularly at various Towers in West Kent. In March the Hub comes to Staplehurst, but more about that in the next issue.

We are not expecting any visiting bands during February, so we will just be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening, for the regular Sunday services and hopefully for the Ash Wednesday service on 14th February.  As ever, details of all ringing are available on our website at https://bells.allsaintsstaplehurst.co.uk/

Roy Barclay

Tower Secretary

Staplehurst Bellringers Report January 2024

NEWS FROM THE TOWER

All Saints Tower

The Staplehurst Bellringers hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas and wish you all the best for the New Year.

The early copy deadline for this issue means that this report was written at the very beginning of the Christmas festivities but by the time you read this we will be approaching the end of what is always a busy time for our ringers. The first event was on the evening of Tuesday 12th December when 16 of our ringers, along with partners and friends, enjoyed our Christmas meal at The West End Tavern in Marden and a great time was had by all.  In addition to the normal Sunday Services we will also have rung for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday 17th December, the Christingle Service on Christmas Eve, for Midnight Mass and on Christmas Morning. We will also have enjoyed our traditional New Year’s Party, this year kindly hosted by Sue and Chris Bassett, and will have “rung in” 2024.

Things quieten down a bit in the New Year.  We have no visiting bands scheduled during January, so we will just be ringing on our normal Tuesday practice evening and for the regular Sunday services. 

Finally it is good to be able to report that four of our recruits have now reached the stage where they are able to ring for Sunday Services so are fully fledged members of our band.  How about you – if you think this all sounds quite fun why not make it one of your New Year resolutions to come and visit us at our Tuesday practice and see what it’s all about?  For more information contact me on 01580 890247.  In case anyone is wondering, I must stress that there is absolutely no requirement for ringers to attend the church services that they ring for. You can be assured of a warm welcome. 

Roy Barclay

Tower Secretary

Staplehurst Bellringers Report December 2023

NEWS FROM THE TOWER

All Saints Tower

On Tuesday 7th November we held our Tower AGM at which our Tower Captain Adam Brady, Assistant Tower Captain Steve Bassett, Steeplekeeper Chris Bassett, Treasurer Sallyann Barclay and Secretary Roy Barclay were all re-elected.  We thank them all for their work over the past year.

The rest of the year is going to be a busy time for our ringers.  We are hosting a Training Day on Saturday 9th December when the bells will be rung periodically during the day. Then on the following Saturday, 16th December, the Kent Young Ringers will be ringing our bells, but on this occasion, they will be using a simulator to produce bell sounds within the tower and there will be no sound outside.

Christmas brings a number of extra services that we will be ringing for. In addition to the normal Sunday morning services we plan to ring for the Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday 17th December, the Christingle Service and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and the Christmas Morning Service. We will be enjoying our New Year’s Eve Party before ringing in 2024 in the traditional way.

Finally, the Staplehurst Bellringers would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Roy Barclay

Tower Secretary

Bell Sunday – 14th May 2023

This talk was given by Sue Bassett during the Bell Sunday service on 14th May 2023

Bishop Latimer, in 1552, remarked “If all the bells in England were rung at one time, there would scarcely be a single spot where a bell would not be heard”. Although the bishop was referring to the ease with which the population could be warned in the event of an invasion from the sea, it is also a comment on the number of churches, with bells, that had existed in pre-Reformation England. Bells have occasionally been used to signal disaster but they are primarily associated with places of worship. Ringing as a form of communication, both religious and secular, has a very long tradition which continues to this day.

Before the Reformation, ringing in cathedrals and monasteries was usually the duty of deacons. With improvements in bells and how they were rung over the centuries, lay people became more interested in the art of ringing. Gradually local people took over ringing from the clerics who then paid the ringers to ring for church services and church feasts. Ringers receive payment to ring at weddings and funerals but nowadays, we give our time and skills freely to ring for church services and special occasions.

The original use of bells to signal church services became adapted over the years to include secular purposes, such as the beginning and end of the harvest, the arrival of the mail-coach, village fetes, the squire’s birthday or other local or national events and anniversaries. In 1586 the ringers at St. Margaret’s Westminster were paid one shilling each for ringing at the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1605 ringers were paid ten shillings each to ring at the time when the Houses of Parliament should have been blown up. You may like to know that the ninth bell here in Staplehurst was cast in 1605, so there is plenty of history to bell-ringing.

At around the turn of the 17th century bell ringers in London and Norwich started “ringing the changes” on their bells, producing a unique kind of music based on changing patterns of bells rather than on conventional tunes. This art of change ringing spread across England and gradually to all corners of the English-speaking world. Today this is the familiar sound heard from thousands of churches every Sunday morning, and a continuing fascination for us as bell ringers. Some of these 17th-century bell ringers established ringing societies, the most famous being the Ancient Society of College Youths, founded in 1637, whose members ring at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Ringing on state occasions, such as the recent Coronation, has to be perfect so only the best ringers are invited to join.

Staplehurst is extremely fortunate to have as its Tower Captain, Adam Brady, who is an excellent ringer and member of the Ancient Society of College Youths. He cannot be here today as he is practising for the National 12-bell competition when the best ringers in the country will be competing against each other on 24th June this year.

In addition to ringing faithfully and often at our home tower, ringers benefit from a wide variety of venues in which to practice their skills. There are 7,147 sets of bells worldwide – 7K of which are in the British Isles. Although a majority of bells are found in Anglican churches, there are 56 sets of bells in Roman Catholic churches, 34 in Orthodox and non-Episcopal churches, 350 former churches with bells are now vested in the Churches Conservation Trust and 25 sets of bells are in schools and colleges.

Calling the faithful to prayer is generally considered the main object of ringing. In addition, it is an extremely interesting and rewarding activity, physically and mentally for us as ringers. Just climbing the stairs several times a week is as good as going to the Gym and much more interesting! The complexities of skills needed to ring the bells provides us with a sense of fulfillment as well as being an honour to serve the life of the church and its congregation. Even if some of us are not often seen within the body of the church, we spend a great deal of time and energy proclaiming the living church to our community through the sound of the bells. This Bell-Ringing Sunday Service is a great opportunity for us all to acknowledge our part in the life of the church.

We are very happy to share our knowledge about ringing and to teach anyone who would like learn to ring. Please talk to us over coffee or perhaps visit us in the tower afterwards, when we can show you the bells and give you a ringing demonstration.