Bell ringing is an activity that dates back to the European Medieval Church, when bells were used to ‘call the hours’. After the reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries in England which began in 1536, church bells gradually became available to people outside the clergy. It was then that the practice of change ringing began to develop and it is quite a disciplined technique.
It is based on the fact that bells may be rung in many different sequences. Five bells can be rung in one hundred and twenty different ways; with six bells it is seven hundred and twenty. A bell ringer is trained is to be able to move a bell by changing its place in the ringing order so as to produce a constantly changing surge of sound.
Historically, the ringing of church bells is the call to worship and while this still holds true, the use of bells has grown over the centuries to give notice of many other activities. The Bathurst Bell Tower is a community tower. Its members ring for both the church and for the community. We recruit ringers from that same community regardless of colour, age (say 12 to 90), gender, religion, profession, etc. It is a team activity, and mindful of this and the safely considerations involved when controlling a large mass of bronze at the end of a rope, bell ringing is a totally non discriminatory leisure activity. It does not require great physical strength; ringing is about rhythm, memory, concentration and commitment.
It normally takes about 3 months of regular weekly practices to acquire the skills necessary to confidently control a bell. With that skill acquired, you soon begin to become a useful member of the team. At this stage learning to ‘ring the changes’ starts, with its intriguing mix of careful listening in conjunction with the development of faster physical and mental reactions. How rapidly and how far you advance depends mainly on opportunity and enthusiasm, but the feeling of challenge, achievement and enjoyment starts from the beginning and continues through every stage of progress. Generally anyone able to control a bell, whatever their stage of advancement or experience may be, is always able to make some contribution to bell tower activities.
To many it becomes a very addictive hobby. Once a commitment has been made, very seldom can a bell ringer resist an invitation to join the circle and try their hand.