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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 6 Summer 2008

A big hand for the bells

When the church bells of St Mary's fall silent at the end of Tuesday night practice evenings the ringers regularly stay on in the tower and exercise their skills on much smaller bells hand bells. In many other church towers around the country the ringers use hand bells to ring the same sequences that are rung on the big bells, but at St Mary's we prefer to ring the hand bells like musical instruments, playing tunes and harmonies.

The group have a set of twelve hand bells, corresponding to white notes on a piano, with three more bells (like the black notes), which extend the range of the melodies that can be played. We not only play for our own pleasure, but have also played at the church bazaar in St Mary's House and at the Annual Carol Service in the church. On one occasion we played in the Woodbridge Street Fair, but we do not generally make a practice of playing in public due to the demand of other activities on our time.

ringing handbells

The bells we use are about seventy years old and were donated by Mrs Ella Lloyd in the 1980s after the death of her husband. Her son David and his wife Daphne are local residents. Daphne is Woodbridge Town Council's Local History Recorder, and David's father Aubrey William Lloyd was a bell ringer in several places, including the West Midlands and northern England. Aubrey bought twelve hand bells at the beginning of World War II so that his bell ringing band could practice, as the ringing of church bells was only allowed in the event of an invasion. David remembers as a child hearing the hand bells being rung downstairs as he lay in bed. It is, of course, these very bells that we now ring.

The ability to read music is not essential, since most of the pieces that we play are written in the form of numbers corresponding to the two bells rung by each member. Our repertoire contains a mixture of pieces, from music hall songs to classical melodies, hymns and carols, the latter particularly suited to the medium of hand bells because of the rhythmic nature of the music. Familiarity with the tunes also helps! It is good fun.

If any adults would like to join us and try their hand at ringing bells (big or small bells), then telephone Bruce (385203) or Terry (385604).