Bellringers

Bell Ringers

The bells, their history and maintenance

John Taylor of Loughborough was the founder of our eight bells (tenor bell 12cwt in the key of G), which were dedicated in 1912. Parish Magazine reports say they were first rang for the wedding of David Rupert Phillips and Amy Isabel Thomas on 24 August 1910.

With the intervention of two world wars when the bells were silent, and remained silent for considerable periods of time after peace declarations, the installation fell into a state of disrepair particularly regarding the plain bearings (steel stub-shafts rotating in brass bushes) which support the bells as they turn through full circles: grit had contaminated the lubricant and damaged the bearing surfaces. Eventually, during the 1970s, in three stages of finance and work, the bell headstocks were fitted with ball-bearing housings, most of the work being performed by the bellringers.

Other work in the tower during this period was the installation of sound control. This involved permanently sealing most of the louvre openings with heavy wooden boards and only leaving small adjustable openings near the top. One of the more beneficial effects of this work was to even up the perceived volume from each bell. Before the sound control, the ring was dominated in any particular direction by the bell closest to a louvre.

The bellringers

Enough of the hardware. The greatest resource a tower can have is its bellringers. The Central Council, comprising representatives from area associations, govern change ringing; ours is The Llandaff and Monmouth Diocesan Association. Peal boards in ringing chambers and Ringing World records reveal the exploits of past ringing bands, with membership records of an association giving a measure of the number of ringers at a tower at a particular time; -most ringers who achieve a modest standard, say a 24-handicap as a golfing equivalent, would wish to be elected to an association membership.

In the early years (1912 up to the outbreak of WWI) our association records show three members at Radyr, and with no recorded peals it is reasonable to assume a call-change band existed. Edgar Lewis remembered occasional ringing during the period between the two wars, and no record of any peal or quarter peal having been rung has been found, apart from those rung by visiting bands. In 1950, William (Bill) Dare, a Whitchurch ringer who lived in Rhiwbina, attended a meeting of our Association at Aberdare, the minutes of which record a discussion on the possibility of restarting ringing at Radyr. Bill volunteered to contact the Rev. Stanley Pontin to offer his help to train a band of learners to the stage when they would be self-supporting. This he achieved and since then the bells have rung out for Sunday services. The strength of ringing at a tower lies not only with the ease with which the bells may be rung but also with its greatest resource: the number of ringers forming the band.

Through regular maintenance work, we act as de facto custodians of the installation to future-proof Christ Church bells as an easygoing ring. We replaced some ropes and all the sallies & rope tail-ends during 2007.

The basic rules and logic of change ringing have remained the same since 1640 when the principles were discovered. The patterns we ring at Radyr are the same in towers throughout the UK and beyond (change ringing is performed in Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). With the exception of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and York Minster, all towers welcome visiting ringers and this gives bellringing an added interest. Whilst the physical exercise of ringing a bell is good for dodgy backs and upper-body extension, we are told the mental gymnastics delay the onset of dementia.

We start 2010 with a ringing band of eight and one well advanced learner. Two ringers per bell is considered to be the ideal number in a band for long term stability; one-and-a-half times is a more realistic factor. Based on this, Radyr has a shortfall of four. If you would like to join us you will be most welcome either as an experienced ringer or a trainee.

Links:

Llandaff and Monmouth Diocesan Association of Bellringers and Ringing World

Practice night: Thursday 7:30 to 9:00 pm. (Visitors: please check with the Ringing Secretary as some practices get cancelled during the holiday season)

Contact information: Secretary; Robert Williams williams_r11@sky.com; Ringing Master; Andrew Gainsbury andrewgainsbury@hotmail.com; Steeple Keeper & Tower Captain; Andrew Jones andrewjones585@btinternet.com