[Bell Historians] Early Change Ringing.

Richard Smith richard at Q3EWhn9kCQlf4poXqiKe1_PYrcyf0phD264nOKc7zB70B0Hkojiu_rPL5NQoNU8rzukVDRLpGyTINz3SScP-.yahoo.invalid
Tue Jul 14 10:25:32 BST 2009

Alan Buswell wrote:

> The church where I ring had four bells at one time with 
> half wheels. The bells are dated Mid 15th Century, 1600 
> and 1623, one has been recast into others. I have been 
> asked what kind of (change) ringing took place at these 
> times.

By 1623, Plain Changes on four were certainly being 
practiced in some parts of the country, and there is 
certainly one (possibly two) manuscript containing Plain 
Changes on four dating to the 1610s or 20s.  (I know of the 
Halesworth MS; I have an idea that a second was discussed in 
the RW sometime in the last 10 years, but have not managed 
to located the RW reference.)

It's possible that some of the more obscure single-change 
methods on five bells given at the start of Tintinnalogia, 
such as "Twenty All Over" or "Cambridge Eight and Fourty", 
might be this old.  They're both evolutionary dead ends, and 
I would suggest significantly pre-date Grandsire (composed 

In a similar way, it seems very possibly that other, shorter 
pieces of four-bell ringing were in use that have not 
survived.  Even by Duckworth's time (c.1631-1706), four-bell 
ringing seemed to be out of favour compared to five and six 
bell ringing.

The methods may not have been used in a modern way, changing 
row every handstroke and backstroke. Whole-pull ringing 
(i.e. changing row every handstroke only) was the norm for a 
time.  For example, Duckworth states (p54) "this Whole-pulls 
was altogether practised in former time, but of late there 
is a more quick and ready way practiced, called Half-pulls".

I can also believe that before whole-pull ringing, changes 
were rung call-change-style.  Again, Duckworth gives a clue 
(p53-4) "All changes are to Rang either by walking them (as 
the term is) or else Whole-pulls, or Half-pulls.  By walking 
them, is meant, that the bells go round, four, six, eight 
times, or more, in one change..."  I'm inclined to interpret 
that to mean call-change-style with a conductor telling the 
band when to progress to the next row; though it could mean 
that the band decided in advance to ring each row a 
particular number of times.

I could easily believe that Sixty on Thirds also dates to 
the first half of the seventeenth century, as it is 
conceptually very close to Plain Changes and some of the 
other early five-bell methods.  I know very little about 
Devon call changes, but it may be that other pieces of 
ringing from that era have remained in use as set pieces of 
call changes.



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