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Jubilee ringing

If ever there was a demonstration of the special place that bell ringing has in the psyche of our nation, it was the Jubilee pageant, led not by a trumpet fanfare, nor by brass band music, but by change ringing on tower bells. There was something touchingly simple about the bells being installed on a humble cargo barge, decked for the occasion with bunting, but still a working boat.

The sound of change ringing is familiar to all, but the experience for those on the bank was subtly different. The sound had an added clarity, without the reverberation from being in a tower, and the action of the bells, normally hidden in a tower, were clearly visible.

Perhaps it’s a shame that the hand picked band of ringers below the bells were not also visible. They were in the depths of the boat, because putting them on the deck would have needed the bells, which weigh well over 2 tons, to be mounted much higher.

The bells all bear the Royal Arms, and are inscribed with the names of the Queen and senior members of the Royal family. Their permanent home will be in the tower of St James, Garlickhythe, in the City of London.

Anyone following the pageant will have heard ringers in towers along the river joining in as the Pageant passed. What they will not have heard was the sound of bells in hundreds of towers across the country also joining in, including All Saints. Towers rang nationwide after the service in St Paul’s Cathedral on the Tuesday as well. On a smaller scale, the previous weekend, ringers across the Diocese responded to our Bishop’s request for bells across each of the three counties to ring at the end of commemorative services held in Oxford, Buckingham and Reading.

It was a busy time for our ringers, with the Civic Service as well as the national ringing, especially with many of us away. I was in Chester for the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers’ annual meeting, where there was a Jubilee flavour in our service in Chester Cathedral. By chance, both the Vice Dean and Precentor were former ringers, so the address was very well informed about ringing as well as the Jubilee.

For more about the Jubilee bells see: 

John Harrison (June 2012)


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