Sunday, 30 August 2015

Would you like to learn to ring?

Have you ever fancied trying to ring a bell?  If so, we are on the lookout for people who would like to learn to ring the bells.  If you live in Flitwick or the surrounding area and you would like to learn to ring the bells then we would very much welcome you at our practice night.  Adults and children wishing to learn to ring are welcome to join us at our practice evenings which are held at Flitwick Parish Church every Friday from 7.45pm until 9.15pm.

For further details please contact Ian Holman on 01525 716258.

If you've seen the Mars Bar advert and are worried about being hoisted up on a rope, don't worry bell ringing in real life is nothing like that!  There are lots of myths about bell ringing, but most are untrue.

Here's a list of some of them:

Monks swinging on bell ropes? - If you ever see anyone swinging on a rope, they are not real ringers.  Don't believe everything you see on TV!

Being taken up by the rope? - It can happen, but it is so rare that most ringers have never seen it, let alone done it. When properly handled, a bell is perfectly safe - just like any other heavy equipment.

Just pulling a rope? - There's a lot more to ringing than 'pulling a rope'. To control a bell in full circle ringing requires skill, and change ringing adds an extra layer of mental skill that can provide endless fascination. Ringers often get hooked on it.

Bells rung by machine? - Apart from a few tunes and clock chimes, English bells are hardly ever rung by machine. When you hear English style ringing, there is a band of skilled ringers in the tower, helping to carry on a 400 year old tradition and bring you that special, unique sound.

Not the right type? - Ringers are male and female, old and young, and from all walks of life. The status of ringers reflects their ringing skill, not their age or their job.

Nerdy ringers? - Ringers are keen, and some times passionate, about ringing. But so too are people about other forms of sport, music and hobbies.

Going to church? - You don't have to be a Christian to ring. Many ringers are members of the church where they ring, but many others aren't. They ring for church services in return for the pleasure that they get from ringing, for services and at other times. The modern Church supports many activities that involve the community outside its own members.

Too old or too young to learn? - You can learn at any age. Teenagers probably find it easiest to learn, but some very young children learn too, and many ringers these days learn in their 40s, 50s or 60s. Whatever age you learn, you can ring for the rest of your life.

Is ringing hard work? - Not normally, unless the bells are very heavy or there is something wrong with them. Watch a skilful ringer, and you will see a smooth, almost effortless performance. Bell control is all about feeling and timing, not brute force.

Do ringers need to be strong? - Not at all. When you have learnt how to do it, controlling a bell is easy. The more skilful you are, the easier it is, because of the way the bell works.  Most normal weight bells (up to about a ton) are within the range of anyone of average build who learns the necessary technique.

Dangerous? - Compared with most activities, ringing is very safe.

Campanologists? - Ringers rarely call themselves campanologists - it is a word mostly used by non-ringers. Normally we just call ourselves ringers. The literal meaning of campanology is the study of bells.

A closed shop? - Not at all. It takes time to learn, as with any skilled activity, but ringers are very welcoming to those who want to learn, as well as to people who are just curious to know what it is all about. Try visiting your local ringers.

An isolated activity? - Spending your time in a bell tower might seem isolated, but ringing is a team activity so you are always with others who share your interests. Ringers are also part of a much wider community that spans regional and national borders. A ringer walking into any tower in the world where English style ringing is performed is treated as a friend and invariably invited to join in the ringing.

Source: Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Friday, 11 October 2013

Full video now on YouTube

The full half-hour Bell Refurbishment video is now available to view on YouTube.

The DVD of this video is no longer available to purchase.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

DVD Now Available

It's been over four months in the making, but finally the DVD has been finished!  This half hour documentary follows all aspects of the re-hanging of the six bells at Flitwick.  It starts in October 2011 with the cutting of the trap ways, all the way through to April 2013 when the newly tuned bells were re-hung in the tower.  Much of the work was done by the Bell Ringers and their supporting friends and this short documentary captures their achievements.

The DVD is no longer available.

Technical Details:
Duration: 33:45
Video Format: PAL 16:9 (Widescreen)
DVD Media: DVD-R
DVD Region: 0 (All Regions)
DVD Packaging: Poly-sleeve with paper insert

Updated Bell Information

The weights of the bells were previously estimated.  When the bells went away for tuning they were weighed, giving us accurate weights for the first time and showing that the previous estimates were mostly major over-estimates!  The nominal frequencies of the new tuning are also shown for each bell.

14-1-201279.0 HzE27.63"1957Mears & Stainbank
24-3-111143.9 HzD29.75"1867John Taylor & Co
35-1-01023.0 HzC31.00"1608John II Clarke
46-0-18956.3 HzB33.75"1631James Keene
57-0-13855.3 HzA35.25"1653Miles III Graye
69-1-9765.0 HzG39.25"1654Miles III Graye

This information is taken from our entry in Dove's Guide.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Rehanging The Bells

Here are some pictures of the Four being rehung on Monday 15th April.  They are stills from video footage taken for a DVD that we are putting together to document this project.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Bells Return

On Friday 12 April the bells were returned to the church.  They were lined up in the nave of the church in front of the chancel .  The bells were re-dedicated by Revd Canon Michael Bradley during Sunday service on 14 April.  After the service many members of the congregation came to look at the bells and ask the bell ringers questions.

On 15 April Whites returned to re-hang the bells in the tower.  All six bells are now safely hung in the bell chamber and work on the bells will continue during the rest of the week.  It is anticipated that the bells will be ready to ring at practice night on Friday 19 April.  Photographs of the re-hanging work will appear on this site soon.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Painting The Frame

We have just completed painting the bell frame.  Whites the bell hangers have also recently fitted new bearing pads to the frame making it ready for the bells to be re-hung in about a weeks time.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Preparing The Frame

We're currently preparing the bell frame ready for painting.  Over the past few weekends we have been busy chipping, scraping, wire brushing and sanding the old paint from the frame to make a good surface to apply the new coat of paint to.  We aim to have this preparation completed over the Easter weekend, ready to paint the following weekend.  We have been told that the bells will ready to be re-hung in a couple of weeks time!

Friday, 8 March 2013

March Update

All the bells, including the tenor, have been tuned and are now back at Whites.  We have been told that the bells sound very good, so we can't wait to hear them!  Whites are now fabricating the new headstocks.  The new clappers have been made and the new staples are in progress too.  We are hoping that the bells can be refitted in the tower around the end of April.

Friday, 15 February 2013

February Update

The crown of the Tenor bell was found to be very thin and it contained many holes making this part of the bell very weak.  It was decided that the best course of action would be to get it welded by a specialist welder to fill the holes and thicken the crown of the bell.  This additional work will cost around £3,000.

The welding has been successfully completed and all the bells are currently at Whitechapel Bell Foundry being tuned.  When the tuning is complete the bells will be returned to Whites who will then fabricate all the new fittings and refurbish the existing bell wheels.  It is expected that this will take another couple of months, during which the Bell Ringers will rub down and re-paint the bell frame in the tower ready for the return of the bells.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Removing The Tenor

Dismantling The Bells

On 7 January 2013 we started the second phase of our refurbishment project.  First of all the fittings for all six bells were removed and the trap ways were opened to provide a route from the bell chamber at the top of the tower down to the ground.  The first bell to be lowered down was the largest bell, the Tenor, which weighs about 10 cwt (0.5 tonnes).  This bell took the longest to get down as it got stuck in the ringing chamber trap way.  After a bit of persuasion it finally cleared the trap way and was lowered down to the ground.  The smallest bell, the Treble, was next and this was lowered down without a hitch.

On the second day, the remaining four bells were lowered down in the order Two, Three, Four and Five.  After the Bell Hanger had taken measurements of the frame, the pulley blocks and other frame fittings were removed.  On Thursday 9 January the bells were loaded onto the lorry and taken away for tuning and refurbishment.  Thank you to everyone who gave up their time to help.

The Tenor raised out of its pit.

Being lowered from the bell chamber into the ringing chamber.

In the ringing chamber - will it fit through the trap way?

Hmm, not quite... it needs some help.

It's through!

Nearly there.

Made it!

All the bells down on the ground.

Tenor, Treble, Two and Three waiting for the lorry.

Four and Five also.

The Five is the last bell to be loaded.

All ready to go.

Monday, 24 December 2012

2012 Update

As you may have noticed, it has been nearly a year since we last updated our blog.  That's because we have all been busy raising money for the refurbishment.  We have been successful in obtaining grants from a number of generous organisations and coupled with a donation from Ampthill District Lions Club and Green Tokens from Waitrose Ampthill, we are please to report that:

We have reached our target of £36,000!!!

Work is scheduled to start on Monday 7 January 2013 when the six bells and their fittings will be dismantled and lowered to the ground floor of the tower and transported to Whites of Appleton Bellhangers works.  It is estimated that the bells will be away for about four months, during which time Whites will prepare the new fittings and the bells will be taken to Whitechapel Bell Foundry to be tuned. Whilst the bells are away we will be busy rubbing down and repainting the frame ready to accept the bells when they return.

When the work has been completed the bells will be ringing out over Flitwick with a much improved sound and the new fittings mean that the bells will be easier for the Bell Ringers to ring.

We will keep this blog updated with photos of the work as it takes place.  A big thank you to all those who have contributed to make the refurbishment a reality.  We wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

2012 New Year News

We start 2012 with lots of good news.  Just before Christmas we spent a couple of hours outside the Tesco store in Flitwick ringing a selection of carols on handbells which not only brought Christmas cheer to the shoppers but also raised £254 in donations.

We have very recently been informed that Flitwick Town Council have awarded us a grant of £620 towards the refurbishment, for which we are very grateful.  Further funds have also been raised this month by giving talks on the history of the bells to the Flitwick Women's Institute and the Flitwick U3A Group.

This money and other kind donations made during December and January now takes our total to £28,545.

With work on the trap ways now complete, the PCC have submitted a letter of intent to the preferred bellhangers Whites of Appleton.  It is anticipated that the work on the refurbishment and tuning of the bells will commence in January 2013.  This gives us twelve months to raise the remaining £4,455.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Contact Us

Our Contact Us page had not been working for some weeks.  We are now happy to report that it is now fully working again.

Monday, 31 October 2011

October Update

We have lots of news for you in this posting.  Firstly we have just completed Phase 1 of our refurbishment which was to widen the existing trap way in the ringing chamber floor and construct a new trap way in the bell chamber floor to allow the bells to be removed from the tower for refurbishment.  You can see the new trap way in this photo, looking up underneath the bell chamber floor from within the ringing chamber.

The work on the trap ways has cost more than was originally budgeted and as a result we have had to raise our fundraising target to £33,000.  We were delighted to receive £1,000 towards the cost of the trap way work from The Friends of Flitwick Parish Church.

Now that the trap way work has been completed, this leaves the way clear to start the bell refurbishment work.  We still have to raise more money before this work can go ahead, but we are looking forward to a provisional start date of January 2013.

We have recently received the fantastic news that we have been awarded a significant grant of £6,000 by the Bedfordshire Association of Church Bell Ringers Luton District Belfry Repair Fund.  This, combined with other kind donations received during September and October, brings our total raised so far to £27,401.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

August 2011 Fundraising

Thank you to all those who donated in August.  We have raised a further £260 since the Classic Car & Bike Show, taking the total raised so far to £20,235.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Classic Car & Bike Show - 7 August 2011

We hosted the Charmborough Ring at the Flitwick Classic Car and Bike Show on 7 August.  This mini-ring generated a lot of interest from visitors to the show and also attracted ringers from neighbouring Towers.  Curious onlookers were invited to try their hand at ringing, with many taking up the offer to have a go.  In addition to the ring we had an information stand giving details of our refurbishment project and a stall selling home-made sweets, which proved very popular!

With money raised at the show and a pledge from a generous benefactor, the total raised to date stands at £19,975.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Try Your Hand At Ringing - 7 August 2011

The Bell Ringers will be at Flitwick’s main community event – the Classic Car and Bike Show (including The Health and Beauty Experience) at the Rufus Centre in Flitwick on Sunday 7 August from 12 noon to 4pm.  We are pleased to be hosting the Charmborough Ring - a portable belfry with six bells that can be rung in the same way as those in churches and cathedrals throughout the country.

If you have never rung a bell, we would be delighted to "show you the ropes" and let you try your hand at ringing, or if you are already an accomplished ringer you are very welcome to come along and have a go on what is considered to be one of, if not, the best mini-ring in the country.

If that is not enough to tempt you, the Bell Ringers will also have their stall selling a range of home-made sweets, which proved very popular at this year's summer fete.

There won’t be any charge to ring (although any donations towards our refurbishment project will be gratefully received!).  There is an entry fee to the Classic Car show which is £3 for adults (children free).  Directions and a map to the Rufus Centre in Flitwick can be found on their web site at

We look forward to seeing you there!

July 2011 Fundraising

Thank you to all those who donated in July - we raised a further £158 - making our total so far £6,559.