[Bell Historians] Was Belfry Reform necessary?

David Bryant davidbryant at Vk0I3fc_vnBUeAFPFg17EOkcD7X7WFKuI41Df6-o3mGLtC2XAi4qLVdkNt02SvKKN5CFrljh3ao_oChZtO0iUfc.yahoo.invalid
Thu Mar 9 23:13:27 GMT 2006

> We're currently 125 years or so on from belfry reform and the foundation 
> of most of the big territorial  associations. But a friend of mine asked 
> for an opinion on whether Belfry Reform was really needed back then. And 
> from the position of having read history a while back, but with no 
> knowledge of this issue, I think he could have a point.
> History, as we all have noticed, is invariably and inevitably written by 
> the winners. That applies as much to social history as it does to 
> political.
> Even from my position of ignorance, I can make a case that the winners in 
> Belfry Reform were the clergy, who increased their control over church 
> buildings. And most of the contemporary accounts, I would surmise, were 
> written by the clergy. But is there independent, unbiassed evidence to 
> support there having been a need for Belfry Reform?

Change Ringing is basically a secular folk art, which of necessity developed 
under the umbrella of the church, as the church has the bells. As I see it, 
the belfry reform movement was primarily about the Victorian church trying 
to bring the ringers under church control. Whether they were drunkards, etc, 
as claimed by the clergy I don't know - ringers being ringers, it certainly 
seems likely! However, it also seems likely that this was a reason used to 
justify what the clergy wanted to do anyway - have control over the ringers.

We have not gone full-circle again, and ringing (particularly at the top 
end) is by and large a secular hobby once again. This begs the question as 
to whether the territorial associations are a product of Victorian values 
which are largely irrelevant today. I think I would argue that in many ways 
they are.



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