The picture shows the ringing chamber at Staunton Harold church in Leicestershire. The church is cared for by the National Trust and has 8 bells – these haven’t been rung since 1998 due to worries about the structure of the church.
When the volunteer guide discovered that I was a bell-ringer he offered to show me the ringing chamber, which isn’t open to the public. We went up the usual spiral staircase and into a chamber that time forgot. The blue sallies (the furry bits) on the ropes were thick with grey dust and the room seemed to have become a dumping ground for anything and everything. There were a couple of peal boards on the wall recording the ringing successes of earlier generations but what I found most interesting was the ‘music stand’ in the centre of the room.
I’ve been ringing since I was a teenager but have never seen a ‘music stand’ in a ringing chamber before. The ringers would place notes on it to remind themselves of what they were going to ring (usually the ringers have the pattern of changes in their heads or it is shouted by the ringing master). In the picture you can see candle holders on the stand that would have been essential on winter practice nights before electric lighting.
I was very grateful to the volunteer guide for allowing me this peek into history.
What has this got to do with writing? Nothing directly, except that I found it interesting and wanted to bring it to a wider audience – and all my attempts to get an article on bell ringing published have failed.
But then I got thinking about all the generations of ringers that have stood in that ringing chamber – big burly farm hands, soldiers who perished in the world wars, the first women to learn to ring etc etc. Could there be a family saga set around the church and its ringing fraternity? Or maybe a short story about a mutiny amongst the ringers? Or a Midsomer Murders type tale?
So that abandoned ringing chamber could have a lot to do with writing…
#1 by Jenny Francis on July 28, 2011 - 2:42 pm
It would also be a good setting for a ghost story, where he bells ring by themseves.
#2 by Jenny Francis on July 28, 2011 - 2:43 pm
sorry ment to say where the bells ring on there own
#3 by Sally Jenkins on July 28, 2011 - 5:20 pm
Good idea, Jenny. I imagine it would cause quite a stir if disused bells started ringing…
#4 by Alice on July 28, 2011 - 7:47 pm
I think there’s loads of scope for stories about bell ringing. I find it so intriguing though have never had a go. I seem to remember watching a Midsomer Murders about bell ringers once as well…
I really enjoy your blog Sally-it’s full of very useful information and insights. I have been ‘following’ for a while!
#5 by Sally Jenkins on July 28, 2011 - 7:54 pm
Alice – glad you’re enjoying the blog and it’s nice to get some feedback. I saw that Midsomer Murders episode too. There’s also a book – The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers – about a murder in the belfry.
#6 by susanjanejones on July 28, 2011 - 8:02 pm
I love Staunton Harold. We often visit to have a cream tea and a look around the nursery. The history of the bells is fascinating. How about if you could elaborate on this blog post and send it to Leicester Mercury newspaper, or Leicestershire Life? I’m sure they would snap it up. Good luck with your ideas.
#7 by Sally Jenkins on July 29, 2011 - 12:06 pm
Brilliant idea, Susan. Now why didn’t I think of that?
#8 by Catherine Kowalczyk on August 1, 2011 - 9:56 pm
I loved this as it took me back to my childhood. As my mother was a ringing master (yes even women are called masters). Memories come flooding back of my brother and I often playing among the gravestones as it was safer than us being up in the Belfry. My imagination leads to the idea of a monk forgetting to let go of the sally and so up he goes.
#9 by Sally Jenkins on August 2, 2011 - 12:13 pm
Catherine – yes, there are several women ringing masters around. Have you never been tempted to follow in your mother’s footsteps and learn to ring?
#10 by Catherine Kowalczyk on August 2, 2011 - 7:03 pm
I used to when I was younger as I remember having to stand on an orange box because I am only 4’11 but now work tends to get in the way because I work funny hours. Its a shame though.