Bellringing Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Am I too old to be a bellringer?
A: Probably not! There are ringers who are at least 80 years old.

Q: Am I too young to be a bellringer?
A: Probably not. Youngsters can generally start about the age of 11, although we have had some start younger than that.

Q: What about Child Protection? Are instructors DBS registered?
A: Yes. This is now a mandatory requirement for anyone who instructs bellringing.

Q: So how difficult is it?
A: It requires quite a bit of coordination, but most people are capable of ringing a bell if they don’t mind learning the skills. In terms of coordination I would put it in the same league as learning to ride a push bike.

Q: But don't I need to be built like a Russian shot-putter?
A: No. It's all down to technique, although strength can come in handy when ringing the larger heavier bells. Brute strength will get you so far, but technique will get you all the way. Besides, we don't really have any heavy bells at Washingborough.

Q: Is it dangerous?
A: No! Don’t get me wrong! It's not entirely risk free. What activity is? However the worst injury I have ever seen was a bit of rope burn.

Q: How long does it take to learn?
A: It varies. On average most people get the hang of basic bell handling and ringing with a band after about 25 practice nights. At one a week, that’s about 6 months.

Q: What about all these fancy methods. Don't they take ages to learn?
A: You'll never learn all of them. No one can! I can't and I've been ringing for 40 years, although I can ring quite a few. Also you don't need to. The basic stuff (we call it "Rounds & Call Changes") is rung everywhere. It's mainly what we ring on a Sunday Morning and it's what we ring for weddings. We do method ringing as well, but we always have Rounds & Call Changes.

Q: So you don't have to learn the fancy stuff?
A: No and some ringers don't. They stick with Rounds and Call Changes and that's fine. However, I tend to view "the fancy stuff" as the "the fun stuff". I would always encourage ringers to get into a bit of method ringing, because to be honest you don't need to learn very much method ringing to be able to ring in a great deal of stuff.

Q: Could I go and ring at other towers?
A: Oh Yes! Once you've got the hang of Rounds and Call Changes, you'll be welcome pretty much anywhere. Even the Cathedral ringers will be pleased to see you. No one will be expecting you to know how to ring Kent Treble Bob.
Q: Does it cost anything?
A: Essentially it doesn't cost anything, apart from having to get a round in occasionally (children obviously exempt!). In fact there are situations where you actually get paid to do it. This normally means wedding ringing. There is a Guild of Ringers, which most of us are members of and there is an annual fee. However for Washingborough ringers, this fee is paid out of tower funds.

Q: I'm not sure how I would cope with the mandatory requirement to go down the pub after the practice.
A: Yes! That is a problem, but it’s just the price you have to pay for being a bellringer.

Q: Would I have to ring on Sunday morning?
A: Well it’s not mandatory, but it is pretty much the reason we do it. Of course there are times when you simply can't make it. I can't and I'm the tower captain. The main thing is that enough ringers turn up that we can at least ring 6 of the 8 bells.

Q: What's in it for me?
A: Well if I put my religious hat on for a minute, it's a way of serving the church and God and of having a connection to something that's much bigger. If I take it off then it's a real social activity, and a great way to meet people. It's how I met my wife. Plus you can pretty much walk into any tower in the UK and say "Hi I'm a bellringer" and they will welcome you with open arms. Probably best to make sure the church has a set of bells first. I have certainly just turned up uninvited at towers on their practice night and I've never had anything less than a warm welcome.

Q: I'm not much of a churchgoer, so it probably isn't for me.
A: It has to be said that in general, a lot of bellringers do not stay for the service. Attending the service is not mandatory and you won't be alone slipping out of the back door. Having said that, it's your Church and it is here for you and you will always be welcome at the service.

Q: Where can I find more information?
A: There is the Lincoln Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers website. This covers the whole of Lincolnshire although the Guild is divided up into Branches. Washingborough is in the "Central" Branch. There is an international organisation known as the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and they have a website. Also there is Dove’s Guide. Dove lists every single ring of bells in the world.