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Do I hear bells ringing – or is it an illusion?

‘Illusions’ can have their uses, and during some training sessions in the tower it is quite likely that you would hear the simulated sound of bells ringing. Our craft may be over 400 years old, but we use the latest technology wherever it can be useful. A ringing simulator, invented 30 years ago, enables a trainee to practise without needing a tower full of ringers to man the other ropes. All it needs is the simulator and the tutor to supervise. The trainee rings a bell as normal, but the bell’s clapper is tied to silence it, and a sensor on the bell wheel tells the simulator when it would strike. The simulator also makes the sounds of the other bells at the correct times. Thus the trainee hears what sounds like all the bells ringing, including his or her own, and can learn to strike the bell correctly by listening to how its sound fits in with the others.

We’ve had a simulator at All Saints for over ten years, and we use it routinely with new trainees. But only one person can ring with it at a time, which is rather limiting, so we intend to upgrade to enable two trainees to practise at the same time. One tower in London has four simulators, and Worcester Cathedral has eight, but we aren’t going that far. The trainees will hear their bells through headphones, so they don’t interfere with each other.

Our current simulator is based on a trusty BBC-B micro computer (remember them?) but it is not compatible with modern simulators, which use Windows laptops. We will buy the sensors, cables, interfaces, headphones and software, but we will need a couple of laptops as well. If you have an old, unused but working, Windows laptop that you would like to donate, then please let me or one of the other ringers know.

If you are interested to know more about ringing simulators and how we teach ringers, there is a ‘Learning to ring’ page on the tower website at:  Or you can go via the Parish website.

John Harrison ( October 2008 )


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