On Saturday 11th September, the bellringers opened the tower for tours and welcomed 45 visitors. For the climb of over 100 steps to the top of the tower, the numbers on each tour were limited, because of ongoing Covid restrictions. Each tour began in the ringing room with information about the history of the bells, facts about the tower and a demonstration of ringing by six local ringers. The tour then continued in the clock room with a visit to the 1883 Gillett & Johnson clock, which now has an electric winding mechanism. Climbing further, visitors entered the bell chamber and were able to admire the 8 bells, recast by Taylors of Loughborough in 1923. Further insights were provided here, explaining the workings of bells hung for full-circle ringing. To complete the tour, each party continued to the tower roof, to admire the view of the town and surrounding area. The fine weather afforded a wealth of opportunities to spot key buildings and places of interest. Meanwhile, downstairs in the church, displays and videos with further information about bellringing were available to enjoy with refreshments and time to chat with members of the band.
Dedication of a new peal board
Pictured: Rev Robert Gordon with tower captain Sheila Scofield, who rang bell 2 in the peal
In the mid-1800s, there were comments in the local newspaper about the poor standard of ringing at St Peter’s and the fact that Sunday ringing was very infrequent. By 1864 the bells were found to be in dangerous condition and so a meeting was called in November 1867 with a view to forming a change ringing society in Tiverton. At the end of the meeting, ‘St Peter’s Society of Change Ringers’ was formed and work began to have the bells put into good order. Nearly a year after formation of St Peter’s Society of Change Ringers, all was ready for ringing to resume. An Inauguration Festival was held over the weekend of 26th – 29th November 1868 with a public lecture on the Thursday evening, ringing of the bells on the Friday and a full peal of 5040 changes on the Saturday, performed by ringers from St Stephen’s, Bristol. A ‘peal’ is a continuous piece of ringing that comprises a minimum of 5000 different rows (permutations).
Your tower needs you!
At St Peter’s the band of ringers numbers ten and we are seeking to train new ringers. The only pre-requisite is to be over 12 years old and reasonably fit. Comprehensive training is provided and you will become a member of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers (the country’s oldest territorial guild, formed in 1874). Within the Guild, the county is divided into branches and Tiverton is in the northeast branch. Please visit: http://devonringers.org.uk/ for more information about the Guild and the branch.
Service ringing is organised by the captain, so that 8 ringers can participate on Sundays from 10.15 am to 11.00 am. Restrictions on numbers attending practices at St Peter’s are now carefully monitored. All regular local ringers are invited to attend practice nights on Tuesdays from 7.30 pm to 9.00 pm. Any visitors who wish to join a practice, please e-mail us first at email@example.com. We ask that face masks be worn on the stairways and sanitising gel be used before ascending the tower and when changing ropes. Please get in touch if you would like to learn how to ring or to find out more!
- St Peter’s tower dates to the Norman period and is host to an anticlockwise stone staircase, a defence feature at a time when swords were used in battle.
- There are eight bells mounted in a steel frame and the heaviest (tenor) weighs 2874 lb (1,304 kg – similar to a small car).
- The total combined weight of all eight bells is roughly 10,527 lb or 4,775 kg.
The bells are rung to highlight a host of social, community and ceremonial events. These include:
- Church services
- Funerals (and memorial services such as Remembrance Sunday when the bells are half-muffled)
- Seasonal events (Christmas switch-on, New Year etc.)
- Visiting bands ringing peals or quarter peals for pleasure.
The art of campanology is quintessentially English and is a great workout for both body and mind. It beats a gym membership, hands down! It is also seriously addictive and will provide you with a superb network of friends as well as opening up a world of social activities. An introduction to the wonderful world of bell ringing and bell ringers at St Peter’s is offered in this broadcast from Tiverton Community Radio.
Practice times are shown on the calendar and in the weekly welcome sheet. The regular practice is on Tuesdays at 18:30 – 19:30 (muffled on request for additional training) and at 19:30 – 21:00 (open ringing).
St Peter’s Church is privileged to have one of the finest rings of eight bells in the South West. The band of bell ringers is happy to ring for any special birthday/anniversary etc. that you may wish to celebrate, perhaps as a unique gift for someone you know. The ringing would last 30-45 minutes at a mutually arranged, appropriate time. To help with the growing cost of maintenance and repair of the bells, a donation would be appreciated.
To find out more or to request your celebratory ringing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.