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A hundred not out

No this isn’t about cricket it is about peals, and peals don’t last as long as a cricket matches – a few hours rather than a few days.

The peal is the ‘gold standard’ ringing performance – over 5000 changes with no repetitions. On our bells (the heaviest of which weighs ¾ton) it takes around 3 hours but on heavier bells it can take 4½ hours.

The first peals were rung over 300 years ago and since then over 360,000 have been rung. The fact that they were recorded is a measure of the status peals have in the ringing community. Since 1880 they have been published in specialist ringing publications but before that they appeared in local newspapers. In recent years (apart from Covid) between 3,000 and 4,000 peals a year have been rung worldwide, most of them in England.

The first peal rung in Wokingham was at St Paul’s in 1864, the year the church was dedicated. All Saints is a much older church but the first peal here wasn’t until May 1903, a couple of months after the bells had been augmented from six to eight. That peal was rung by a band from Oxford led by Rev F E Robinson who was the first person to ring 1000 peals, and is buried in our churchyard. The first peals by a local band were in 1907.

Peals require the stamina to ring for three hours, and the concentration to do so without mistakes – there is no ‘music’ so everything is from memory. The record of peals rung thus reflects the strength of the band.

The Edwardians were active, with 19 peals before the First World War. There were far fewer after the war, and those in the mid 1930s were stimulated by Gilbert Thurlow, the curate who was an eminent ringer.

Far more peals were rung after 1980 when the band was revitalised with an influx of experienced ringers as well as training local recruits.

Saturday 1 June was a landmark at All Saints, with the 100th peal in the tower, which is published at: 

100 peals at All Saints

John Harrison (June 2024)  

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