Level 1 - Bell Handling

Level 1 is aimed at ensuring a new ringer has a strong basic technique. This is important, not only for safety reasons, but in order to facilitate the future progress of the ringer.

Recent Achievers

Rob Hartley
Richard Brown
Liz Raymond

Developing your technique

The first stage in learning to ring is to develop the skills required to handle the bell, namely the techniques to control the bell using the rope. These skills are taught on a one-to-one basis by your teacher and are often done on a silenced bell. For best results this stage is best carried out intensively over a short period. It can take 7 to 15 hours – possibly more. In some areas this is accomplished in a couple of days, in others in several sessions over a few weeks. As with other skills it takes a lot of practice at first.

The process of ringing will be split into its component parts and you will be taught each separately before being helped to put them together. Control of the bell requires you to always keep tension in the rope, and to catch the rope at the right place and time.

From your first lesson, Learning the Ropes builds fundamental bell handling skills including:

  • An introduction to the bells
  • Understanding ringing safety
  • Skills for backstroke and handstroke (the two physical actions in ringing)
  • Combining the backstroke and handstroke to ring independently
  • Safely ‘standing’ a bell into its rest position
  • Ringing up and down (safely swinging the bell to rotate 360 degrees for ringing and also returning it to a stationary state)

Once you can ring a single bell independently, your teacher will move on to improving your bell control by ringing with others and teaching you how to adjust the speed of your ringing.

Information for Teachers

Level 1 should be carried out on a tied or silenced bell where possible, with exercises designed to build skills for the backstroke and handstroke and their integration. Ringers should be supported by theory material on parts of a bell and the function of a stay. Safety considerations should be identified to understand how to avoid the dangers when a bell is up, and ensuring that the new ringer can cope with problems such as a missed sally catch and know how to act in the belfry.

Again on tied bells, where possible, lessons should include ringing rounds, holding the bell on the balance, practice at adjusting rope length and speed and activities such as basic kaleidoscope.

Theoretically, ringers should develop an understanding of the difference between set and on the balance, including a practical knowledge, and the influence of the weight of the rope whilst ringing. Listening skills should be developed by practical sessions counting the number ringing, the use of handbells and simulators where available and activities such as a ‘setting game’.