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The ringing of bells is woven deep into the fabric of British life. If you were listening to Radio Berkshire at breakfast time on l1th June, you may have heard All Saints bells. Our local radio journalists got wind that the Central Council of Church Bellringers is setting up a ‘help line’ for any ringers faced with noise complaints, (or worse still the threat of noise abatement orders), and came to get a local angle.
People can move into houses near a church, unaware of ringing and then find it disrupts their lives. Sadly, the law of noise nuisance ignores the fact that most people like the bells and that the church was there many hundred years before the complainant. Most cases can be solved, providing common sense prevails. The help line is there to provide advice from experts in law, acoustics, and environmental health, as well as bells and ringing.
You may know that in the late 70s and early 80s we too had neighbour problems, even with very constrained ringing times. We solved them by installing variable sound control in 1982. This allows us full volume for service ringing, weddings and public celebrations, while being able to practice with very little external sound. Hence the visitation by the lady with the microphone.
As these things go, a fairly lengthy interview was cut down into a couple of minutes of selected extracts, but overall was very positive. The feature ended with a few door step opinions from people living round the church, all were happy, and there were even statements like ‘its part of old England, isn’t it’. Last month on VE day, we and thousands of other ringers used the bells to help mark the event. Many ringers rang at more than one tower during the day to ensure as many churches as possible could take part. As well as ringing at All Saints, I was asked to help ring two other quarter peals, one of which was at Hurst organised by the sole survivor of a quarter peal rung there on VE day in 1945.
Much of the VE day ringing was sponsored as part of the ‘Peace a Peal’. This was a scheme organised by the Church of England Childrens Society which asked ringers to undertake sponsored ringing with half going to the Society and half for the ringers to dispose of as they wished. It seemed fitting to give our half of the £450 raised to the Wokingham British Legion. Needless to say, they were delighted to receive a donation out of the blue.
John Harrison (Sep 1995)
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