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Ringing for HM the Queen

It was a huge honour to ring the bells of St. Michael’s Church to announce the death of the Queen and to mark her funeral. The bells were rung half muffled. Ringing the bells half muffled actually makes no difference to the art of ringing. A leather (or rubber) cup is attached to the clapper of the bell on one side so as the bell strikes normally on one pull and is muffled on the other pull. The effect on the sound, however, is profound and very moving to hear. We also half muffle the bells for Remembrance.

4 ringers took turns to toll for an hour the day after the Queen’s death had been announced, Bunt Scott, Maddie Knightley, Jenni Mountford and myself. 10 ringers rang for the funeral of the Queen, Bunt Scott (Tower Captain), Maddie Knightley, Maebh Fox, Sherri Woodland, Evie (age 9), Sally Shefferd, Neil Shefferd, Irene Gordon, Jenni Mountford and myself (Ringing Master).

Many towers across the country struggle to ring all their bells without assistance from visiting ringers. I am often asked to go to other local towers to ring for weddings or other special occasions. Recently Sherri Woodland and I spent every Monday evening for 3 months helping a local tower to get going again after covid brought ringing to a halt. Some local towers were not able to get a team together for the Queen’s funeral so could only toll. I am extremely proud of our team of regular ringers, who all turn up regularly, in a positive state of mind, and give their all.

I was so proud of our efforts I decided to share our ringing on a Facebook bellringing forum. We had an amazing response. At the last count we had 243 likes with some wonderful comments.

I would like to make special mention of our youngest ringer, Evie. The rule of thumb for teaching children is to wait until they are at least 10. Evie was so desperate to join us I agreed to give her a go, aged just 8! She has been amazing. She is ringing completely independently and has started change ringing. The only children of her age I have come across before come from families where everybody rings so they have no choice and they are usually reluctant ringers! Evie (and her Mum) are so keen they are always there waiting for me, both practice nights and Sundays. Evie has even been to a few other nearby towers to have a go. Her progress has been incredible and we so hope she continues to ring with us for a very long time.

The video I shared on Facebook included little Evie ringing. Some of the comments are wonderful, my favourite being “I wish I could ring as well as Evie!” We recorded several of our rings for the funeral which have been shared with the Stewkley Film Archive.

Each Stewkley ringer has received a framed keepsake as a reminder of the occasion.
If anyone would like to see what we do, have a chat or find out more, please do get in touch. We practice every Wednesday at 7.30pm (and in the true tradition of bellringers visit a local hostelry afterwards for a much earned drink!) Please just come along, as long as you can manage the steep spiral staircase to the ringing room. We will also have a few people at the “Stewkley Drop In” on 6 November from 10am to 1pm at the Stewkley Recreation Ground Pavilion.

Ailsa Knightley
Ringing Master