Raising A Single Bell
Lowering A Single Bell
Raising In Peal
Lowering In Peal
Leading Up
Leading Down


    Most ringing sessions are started by the raising of the bells and ended by the lowering of the bells. It is all too common for these bits to be got over with as quickly as possible because they are not performed sufficiently well. It is particularly important that if the bells are lowered immediately before a service that the lower should be of high quality since this may the the part of the ringing that the majority of the congregation hear as they arrive.

    There are several reasons why a raise or lower may go wrong: the leader may be inexperienced, some of the ringers may be inexperienced, the bells may be difficult or too little time is allowed. These notes discuss these points and others.

    In the discussion, the assumption is that the reader is a right handed ringer (right hand above the left). Left handed ringers should make due allowances.

Raising A Single Bell

Basic Technique

    The purpose of raising a bell is to get it into the up position from where it can be rung full circle from balance to balance. Since a bell is too heavy to do this in one pull the technique is to raise it bit by bit by making it swing a bit further each time. Eventually the bell will be swinging through a complete circle.

    Before ringing a bell up, the rope is positioned such that the untied tail end (almost) reaches the floor. Thus, if the rope were pulled by the sally there would be a lot of loose rope. In order to stop this rope flapping around it is made into coils which are held in the left hand. For a small bell, two coils are usually sufficient whereas three are better for large bells. The coils should be large enough to prevent ending up with so many coils that they will not fit into your hand but not so large that they still flap around. The coils should be tidily arranged so that they can be released one at a time without becoming entangled.

    Having arranged the coils the hands are placed together on the sally in the same position as when ringing the bell (as far up as you can comfortably reach). The rope is pulled quite hard and, before it rises, the sally is released (or the grip on it lessened). The sally then rises and it is gripped again, with the hand together. Without letting the rope go slack the sally is pulled again. Each time the sally rises it should be firmly gripped and its upward motion suddenly stopped just before it reaches the top of the swing. This should sound the bell and is known as chiming. If the bell fails to chime then the stopping of the upward motion should be more pronounced next time. It is important that the bell is chiming before continuing.

    Once the bell is chiming the sally can be allowed to rise a bit further before gripping (with the hands together) and pulling it. The rope should be pulled quite hard and each time the sally is gripped it should be caught a bit lower down. Within a few pulls the sally should be rising to high to be gripped and the grip should now be on the tail end below the sally. The rope should now be caught at a point which allows the rope to rise with your arms comfortably stretched. If you grip to rope too high you will stop it from rising and waste the energy of the previous pull. If you grip it too low you will not get the full length of pull and you will get stuck.

    After a few more pulls you will need to start letting out some rope from the coils in your hand. To do this you must let a small amount to slide out each time the rope rises. If insufficient is let out then the rope is prevented from rising. If too much is let out then your hands will not rise far enough to get a good pull. Eventually you will have let out so much rope that your coil is getting tight around your fingers. At this stage the remainder of the first coil should be released. The technique is to keep your right hand on the rope and then let the coil go just after pulling the rope. This will release 4 or 5 inches of rope all at once, which will end up between your hands. This may not be too much but it may be necessary to take some of it back into the next coil. This can be done by immediately sliding your left hand up the rope back up to your right hand. Each subsequent loop can be released in the same way.

    Once the bell is half way up the sally will start to bounce. This can be ignored for a bit longer but it will soon start to bounce several inches. Once this happens it is necessary briefly to touch or lightly grip the sally in your right hand, otherwise the rope may start to flap around. The right hand is placed back onto the tail end before it starts to rise. As the raise proceeds further the sally can be gripped more tightly and pulled.

    Once the bell is more than three quarters of the way up its swing will start to take noticeably longer. When this happens it is advisable to pull a bit less hard! The final loop should be released and the sally gripped with both hands, so that the normal ringing technique takes over. The bell is now up.

Typical Problems

    The purpose of raising a bell is to move it from the mouth down position to the mouth up position. In doing this the bell is also lifted up the tower because a bell which is up stands above the headstock whilst a bell which is down hangs below the headstock. The centre of gravity of a small bell may have been lifted by about 1 or 2 feet whilst that of a large bell may have been lifted by 3 or 4 feet or more. It takes a lot of pulling to raise several hundredweight by this amount. Many learners fail to appreciate this and assume that they must pull the rope with about the same force, or maybe slightly more, than when ordinarily ringing a bell.

    Another way in which effort is wasted is by not starting the pull soon enough. Once the bell is moving some of the motion of the ringer's hands is used in just keeping up with the movement of the rope. The pull of the rope must therefore start a fraction of a second before the movement of the bell is felt through the rope. In addition, there is a slight delay after the rope is pulled before the pull message reaches the bell. This delay is small but not insignificant, especially when raising a bell with a very long or stretchy rope.

    The next problem is that the bell's clapper must strike the correct side of the bell. This side is the leading side of the bell. In other words, as the bell swings forwards, the clapper must hit the front of the bell. If the clapper is not striking the leading edge, the bell is likely to be odd struck. A bell in which the clapper is striking on the wrong side is said to be up wrong whereas a bell in which the clapper is striking on the leading edge is said to be up right. A bell which is up wrong, especially a big bell, may become too finely set to stand. Also, the clapper may bounce leading to multiple strikes. The clapper of a large bell which is up wrong can sometimes correct itself, which comes as a surprise when it rings twice with just one pull.

    The final problem that learners encounter is that they fail to let out the tail end at the correct rate. If it is let out too slowly the bell will be prevented from rising and so effort is wasted. If it is let out too quickly the rope will become slack and so the pull is not transmitted to the bell.

Lowering A Single Bell

    In many ways the procedure for lowering a bell is the reverse of that for raising a bell but it differs in one important point; you don't have to pull as hard. As less force is put into pulling the bell (but without letting it go slack) the sally will not rise quite to the balance. It may be steadied with the right hand only. In order to keep the rope tight the tail rope must be taken in. Now, each time the tail rope rises, the right hand can be placed slightly above the left on the tail rope and, as the tail rope is pulled, the left hand can be slid up to the right. As an alternative, whilst the right hand is managing the sally, the tail rope can be taken in between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Whichever method is used, about 1 or 2 inches of tail rope should be taken in each time.

    Gradually, the tail end will start to protrude from the left hand so much that it start to flap about. At this point a loop should be made. One way to do this is, as the tail rope is rising after placing the right hand on the tail rope, pull a length of rope out of the left hand with the right. Pull the tail rope and as it comes down, make the rope which is now between the hands into a loop in the left hand.

    The procedure continues and rope is taken in. When taking in further rope it is important not to do it by rotating the whole loop in your left hand but to just take in the strand where the tail rope enters the loop. The alternative simply results in the tail end growing and making a second loop from this is difficult. Eventually the first loop will start to flap about and so a second loop must be made in the same way as the first one was.

    Once the bell is almost half way down the sally will only be bouncing a small amount. It can be safely ignored from now on. Continue to take in tail rope and make further loops if necessary. Eventually you will have taken in so much rope that you are pulling on the sally and the rope is moving up and down by about 1 foot or 18 inches. It is now time to stop it altogether. The way to do this is to catch the sally as it starts to rise from its lowest level and stop it dead. The bell will give a single loud chime. You should now be holding the sally with the bell pulling slightly on the rope. Let the rope slowly rise until the bell comes to rest.

Typical Problems

    The bell doesn't seem to be coming down. You are pulling too hard and not taking in enough tail rope. It takes a certain amount of confidence to start getting a bell down. It must be very similar to the feeling of doing a parachute jump.

    The rope is going slack. Many learners get the idea that they shouldn't pull the rope at all when lowering a bell. This is wrong, especially when ringing down a small bell in peal. In all circumstances, a bell is only under control if there is some tension in the rope. Move up the tail end a bit so that your hands are rising above your head.

    There is too much rope flapping around. As the tail rope is taken up, the tail end or the loop will get bigger. Eventually it will start to flap around. It is necessary to make another loop at this point.

    Your bell is almost down but you don't know how to stop it. The bell is stopped by catching the sally quite high up just as it starts to rise. Instead of letting it rise you hold it. The bell should stop with a loud chime. Now let it rise slowly so that it comes to rest.

Raising In Peal

    Before attempting to raise a bell in peal (with several other ringers, keeping the bells in Rounds) it is necessary to reasonably proficient at raising a single bell. In particular, you should be easily able to get a single bell to chime and to be able to pull it quite hard. You should also have developed the ability to ring a bell down (at least partly).

    When raising in peal the objective is to keep all the bells in Rounds from beginning to end. Since the bells are not rung to the balance we must find some way of keeping all the bells swinging at the same speed. The bigger bells want to swing more slowly than the little bells. We were all taught at school that a pendulum will swing the same number of times in a given period no matter how high the swing is. This is not correct; a pendulum, and a bell, will take longer to swing if it has further to travel. We must use this fact to keep the bells in order. Throughout the raise the smaller bells must swing higher than the bigger ones.

    The raise commences with the Treble ringer saying something like "look to, Treble's going, she's gone" or something similar. Many people don't know what on earth to say and make some sort of ill-defined mumble, or grunt. The Treble will then be pulled and ought to chime. A skilled leader will have pulled the Treble hard enough to leave room for the other bells as they start. At the second pull the second bell should be made to chime. At the third pull the third bell should be made to chime. It is important that each bell first chimes at the pull following the first chiming of the bell in front. All the time, the front bells will be rising quite rapidly so that they will be swinging slowly enough for the biggest bells when they start. By the time all the bells are chiming the Treble will be swinging quite high, all the more so if a higher number of bells is being rung or the Treble is light compared with the Tenor. This means that the ringers of the small bells must be prepared to pull them quite hard.

    Once all the bells are chiming the sound should be that of rapid but very even Rounds without a gap between Tenor and Treble. This chime is the backstroke, with the bells only chiming on one side of the bell. The bells will continue to rise and the Trebles will start to chime on both sides. This second chime is the developing handstroke. Room must be made for this and so the small bells continue to rise quite quickly to accommodate the handstroke chimes of the remaining bells as they appear.

    Eventually, all the bells will be chiming on both sides and the pace can slacken slightly. This is important if the raise isn't going to break apart. From now on the bells will gradually rise to the point where they are all up. During this phase the handstroke gap will appear (sooner or later depending on the whim of the leader). As the bells get near to being raised they will slow down and they must spread out to fill the duration of the Tenor's swing.

Typical Problems

    The leader goes up too slowly. This means that the large bells can't start because the smaller bells are not leaving enough room. If you are ringing a large bell there is nothing to do but to wait.

    The leader goes up too quickly. Pull!!

    If all is well you will be following the bell in front very much like in Rounds, but probably a bit closer. As long as you continue to go up at the correct rate this situation will continue. There are two possible faults: you rise too slowly or you rise too quickly. If you rise too slowly your bell will not be swinging far enough. The effect of this is that your bell will ring too quickly. The cure is to pull harder and make your bell swing the correct distance. If you rise too quickly your bell will be swinging too far. The effect of this is that your bell will ring too slowly. The cure is to pull less hard.

    There is more to this than meets the eye. Suppose that you realise that your bell is not far enough up because it is ringing too quickly. You start to pull harder and eventually your bell rises so that you are following the bell in front. Then something happens. You appear to be too high. The reason for this is that in getting your bell to ring more slowly you had to make it ring more slowly than the other bells. Once you got right, your bell was still ringing more slowly than the others. This meant that you continued to correct the original fault and ended up too far behind. A similar problem occurs when you realise that you are too far up and that you must pull less hard to speed up your bell. Once you get right you are still ringing too quickly for the other bells and suddenly find that you are too low. When altering your speed in order to get yourself right you must then alter your speed in the opposite way (but not by so much) in order to stay right. Remember that errors are cumulative when ringing up. Don't over correct.

    Many raises are spoilt by all the bells ringing too closely to each other, leaving the Tenor isolated. When this happens the spacing is something like:

        12345 612345 6

It seems that the common perception is that the bells must ring as closely together as possible. This isn't so. The bells must be evenly spaced between the Treble and the Tenor.

Lowering In Peal

    Before attempting to lower a bell in peal you should be able to lower a single bell fully in control and without getting your rope tangled up.

    The objective is to keep all the bells in Rounds. Since the big bells swing more slowly than the small bells and since the small bells swing more slowly when they are swinging further it is necessary keep the smaller bells swinging throughout and to bring the big bells down more rapidly. All through the lower the smaller bells will be swinging more than the bigger ones.

    The lower starts with the Treble ringer saying something "look to the fall", "look to the lower", "downwards", or maybe saying nothing at all, relying on the other ringers to realise that the lower has started. From now on the bells will come down slowly, it may be some time before the lightest even stop ringing to the balance, although they will be ringing slightly more quickly than in Rounds. It is important that the bells are kept in Rounds and that the speed is gradually increased otherwise nothing will happen. As the lower proceeds the handstroke gap of normal Rounds will disappear. If all goes well the bells will remain in Rounds and you will need to gradually take in tail rope.

    This process continues until the big bells are about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way down. At this point the ringing will be quite rapid. The Tenor will cease chiming (soon to be followed by the other big bells). When this happens the leader will start to fill in the gap left by the missing chimes. This will be done by increasing the rate at which the front bells come down. The increase in rate is not large but it is noticeable and must be recognised.

    Following the period of acceleration all the bells will be chiming one one side only and the Rounds will be even. The Tenor's rope will hardly be moving whilst the Treble's rope will be swinging substantially further (this bell may still be almost half way up). The leader will say something like "after three, miss and catch in Rounds". Three will be counted up to. On four, the sally is not caught. This stops the bell from chiming. On five, everyone catches their sally as it starts to rise and the bells all give a final loud chime. If all the bells have been correctly caught there will now be little or no movement in the ropes.

Typical Problems

    The main problem is probably that of thinking that because you are lowering a bell you don't have to pull. Since you must keep in time with everyone else you must keep control of your bell so that you can come down at the same speed as the Tenor. This means keeping the rope tight and, at the first sign of getting too close to the bell in front, pulling a bit harder to get the bell back up a bit. It is important not to overdo any corrections that you might need to make. The comments given in the section on typical problems of raising in peal apply here.

    Towards the end of the lower the pace will increase for the small bells. This should be anticipated otherwise the Rounds will break into two. Try to keep both ends of the ringing in view. Too many ringers just watch the bell they are following and don't take into account the overall speed. Such ringers will suddenly change speed just because the ringer in front of them has. It is much better to try to keep in the correct position in the entire thing even if that means that you are nowhere near the bell in front.

    As with ringing up, many learners get the impression that it is necessary to keep the bells as close together as possible during a lower. If this view is adopted the Tenor will get left behind because its speed is limited. The result will be as in ringing up, the ringing will sound like:

        12345 612345 6

    At the end of the lower your bell may not chime. Some bells are difficult (especially big ones) and the only way round this is to chime them as hard as you can. There is no other way round this. If you bell appears hard to chime then special effort is required for the final catch.

    Make sure that you know which bell you are ringing. It is common for the catch to be in Queens, or some other row. If you don't know which bell you are on you may catch it at the wrong time. This is an easy error to avoid.

Leading Up

    When leading up the first stage is to get all the bells chiming on one side in Rounds. To do this the Treble must be swinging far enough to allow the Tenor to swing. This means that the Treble will need to be almost half way up after very few pulls. If six bells are being raised then all the bells should be chiming after six pulls, with the Treble being high enough to allow the Tenor to swing. On eight bells you have two additional pulls in which to achieve this but since your bell is likely to be lighter compared to the Tenor than is the Treble of six bells your bell will need to be swinging a bit further than on six. This trend continues when raising on ten and twelve.

    If possible, the Treble should be raised so that at each pull it has risen far enough to give space for one additional bell to chime. If this is done then the raise will get off to a smooth start. Once all the bells are chiming on one side it will not be long before the Treble starts to chime on both sides. Space must be left for this and so the raise must continue sufficiently rapidly to allow it (although it may be slightly less rapid than the initial pulls). Listen for the Treble's second chime and time it to follow the Tenor's single chime.

    Once the second starts to chime on both sides sufficient space must be left for it. As each bell starts to chime on both sides more space must be left. There may be some overlap of handstrokes and backstrokes during this phase. Once all the bells are chiming on both sides the pace can, and should, slacken. The big bells feel quite heavy as they approach the half way point, so don't rush. The hardest part has now been done and it just remains to gradually rise to the balance. Once you have judged that the Tenor is up you can then stop.

    There are two styles of leading when ringing up: open handstrokes and closed handstrokes. Which you choose is up to you. Remember that open handstrokes are difficult when the bells are only half way up because they can't be balanced. Closed handstrokes provide a more natural rhythm until the bells are almost up. As the raise approaches it end the smaller bells, followed by the bigger bells, will start to balance. At this point the closed handstrokes can be opened until the normal rhythm is achieved.

    All through the raise you need to watch the Tenor ringer for signs of distress. If he/she appears to be pulling as hard as possible then you are going up too quickly. If ever the Tenor ringer seems to be coming down in order to keep in time then you are not going up quickly enough. At all times, if corrections in your speed need to be made then make small ones several times instead of making one large one. A large change in your speed will take all the other ringers by surprise.

Typical Problems

    Not pulling hard enough at the start. If the Treble isn't swinging far enough the big bells can't swing in time with it.

    Pulling too hard at the start. If the Treble rises too quickly in the first few pulls two problems may follow: the other small bells can't keep up because (as is often the case) the ringers may not be strong enough or experienced enough, or the Tenor can't keep up, even with a mountainous man on the end, because there are limits to human strength. Experience is the only way to learn the correct rate of ascent.

    Following a good start, there is a gap between the Treble and Tenor. You need to slow down a bit once all the bells are chiming before they start to chime on both sides.

    The bells seem not to be going up. You must start to get your bell up a bit more quickly. Start pulling slightly harder because a sudden large change in speed will take the other ringers by surprise.

        The small bells are clustered together with a large gap before the Tenor. This is the fault of everybody except you and the Tenor ringer. Tell the other ringers to spread out.

    Whenever you stand the bells at the end the Tenor fails to stand. Once you think that all the bells are up ring a few more steady Rounds with open handstrokes.

Leading Down

    When leading down it is important to realise that your bell is probably the lightest and will come down quite quickly on its own. With this in mind you should leave enough time at the end of the session for a relaxed lower.

    Some leaders start the lower by just ringing a bit more quickly, leaving the ringers to decide for themselves if it has actually started. It is best to start with a command such as "downwards", "look to the fall", or whatever the local custom is. To start the lower the Treble should ring slightly quicker than Rounds but keep the bell at the balance. This will allow the Tenor to come off the balance without too much effort. From now on the speed of the lower is determined by the speed at which the Tenor ringer can comfortably drop the Tenor. Any open handstroke leads will disappear and the bells will run round and round without handstrokes and backstrokes overlapping and without gaps.

    The Treble must come down a tiny amount at each stroke. This helps to keep the rate of descent steady and predictable for the other ringers. If the Treble comes down by a small amount the increase in speed will require the Tenor to come down by a more substantial amount. Keep a watch on the Tenor ringer. He/she should appear relaxed and at peace, and the Tenor should come down a small amount each time.

    Eventually the Tenor will stop chiming as its handstroke disappears. A gap will appear between the Tenor and Treble. This is the point at which the Treble should start to come down slightly more quickly to keep this gap closed. As other bells' handstrokes disappear the Treble should be closed in to fill the gap. The may be some overlap of remaining handstrokes and backstrokes at this point. Once all the bells have stopped chiming at handstroke the Tenor will be almost down and the bells will be chiming in Rounds. Bring the Treble down to the point where the Tenor is swinging just a few inches. Perform the ritual counting and stopping in Rounds or Queens.

Typical Problems

    The lower breaks up just after the start. You have probably brought the Treble down too much too soon. Remember that the Treble must remain at the balance for a few pulls until the pace quickens a bit.

    The main part of the lower is uneven. You are probably coming down at the correct speed, on average, but you probably find that you need to come down a bit and then back up a bit in order to keep right. It is important to maintain as constant a speed of lowering as possible.

    The bells don't seem to want to come down. You need to be bold and start to bring the Treble down slightly more quickly. If this means that handstrokes and backstrokes overlap then so be it.

    A large gap appears as the bells approach 3/4 of the way down. You have probably not sped up to fill in the gap left by the big bells losing the handstroke chime. This is the point where the slight increase in rate of descent should occur. Start to come down more quickly but don't fill the whole gap all at once.

    As you start to fill the gap left by disappearing handstroke chimes the Rounds breaks into two with the ringers of the back bells in obvious distress. You have sped up to fill the gap but have overdone it. The smaller bells can keep up with you but the big ones can't.

    You survive the final phase but at the end the Tenor seems isolated with the other bells clustered at the front. The Rounds overlap. You have come down too far and the Tenor can't be made to swing quickly enough. You must bluff your way out of this by going back up a bit.

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