One of the moments in my life that I’ll never forget is hearing the Church bells pealing as Mr Kiwi and I took our first steps as a married couple.
Our favourite song was playing, many of our favourite people around the world were smiling all around us and that bloke who had just vowed to stand beside me through thick, thin and endless photographs of doorways (that wasn’t in the vows, it was implied) took my hand.
The vicar hadn’t known whether the local bell-ringing team would make it to our wedding, so had warned us it might not happen, but somehow they dashed from their previous engagement to the top of our Church tower.
As English as cream teas, losing Football matches and enjoying a pint at the end of the working weeks, an icon of the countryside is the musical toll of bells pealing out through frosty countrysides on a weekend morning.
Many of the steeples around the British countryside aren’t mechanised, but have a dedicated group of people who pop in and hand ring the enormous bells. They climb up the Church tower for services and weddings, practising the ancient art of calling the congregation to chapel.
And sometimes a group of Campanologists let a London Kiwi and her husband into the inner sanctum to see that bell-ringing in action.
Campanology (from Late Latin campana, “bell”; and Greek -λογία, -logia) is the study of bells. It encompasses the technology of bells – how they are cast, tuned, rung, and sounded – as well as the history, methods, and traditions of bell-ringing as an art.
After enjoying a late Sunday afternoon roast dinner with a lovely friend, we made our way through the green Buckinghamshire lanes to St Giles on the outskirts of Stoke Poges. Climbing up the external staircase to the Norman tower, we were settled comfortably as the ringers picked their favourite bells.
We didn’t take any photos or video of the St Giles ringers in action – firstly because I don’t like people taking my own photo (and assumed neither would they) and, secondly because we were rather hypnotised by the simple and yet complicated rhythm of the ‘method’ – the pattern of bells.
It was so interesting. We watched, transfixed as the leader called out pattern changes and the ringers closely watched each other to make sure they kept in time around the group.
Above our heads this is what happens:
Over the years we have seen all kinds of bells – from them being cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (sadly now closed) all the way up to one of the most famous in the world – Big Ben and this seemed like something we couldn’t say no to watching.
It’s such an interesting skill to have – and looks like quite a good upper body workout. These are the pulls all tidied away for the evening, ready to be pulled out again for a mid-week practise session.
We left just as the sun began to set and Church goers broke into evening song. Job done.
Have you ever rung Church bells?