Thinking allowed

Three leads of Kent

Last Sat­urday was the monthly bell­ringers’ dis­trict meet­ing. I’ve not been to one of these before (though I had inten­ded to go to last month’s), but this time it was at Bluntisham, whose bells have only just been rehung so that they can be rung and only a couple of miles down the road. Bluntisham is where Dorothy L Say­ers spent her child­hood, and where her fath­er, the Revd Henry Say­ers, was Rect­or a cen­tury ago. It was here that she watched an earli­er res­tor­a­tion of the Bluntisham bells, though not one that enabled them to be rung. Per­haps this stuck in her memory when she came to write her mas­ter­piece, The Nine Tail­ors. In that book, Lord Peter Wim­sey, super­hero, takes part in a 9 hour peal of Kent Treble Bob Major. And so Kent was to be the ‘spe­cial meth­od’ at this meet­ing. And as I have had a couple of attempts at ringing Kent I thought that I would have anoth­er go.

The bells have been hung lower in the tower than before, in order to reduce the strains in the tower, and ringing is from the ground floor. When I arrive, the bells have just been rung up and are ringing mer­rily. Inside the church they seem very loud — you’d want to wear ear plugs if you were ringing a peal. A lot of people have gathered for the meet­ing, from some of the new begin­ners try­ing to form a band for the Bluntisham tower, through to exper­i­enced ringers. Some people have come from around the coun­try to ring these ‘new’ bells — very few people will have rung them before — from Worcester­shire and oth­er far-flung places. That’s a day trip to spend half an hour ringing at Bluntisham before it’s time to head home!

The ringing altern­ates between Kent and oth­er meth­ods, such as a touch of Bob Major, and sim­pler ringing, includ­ing rounds and call changes. I stand around, listen­ing and watch­ing (and talk­ing to oth­er ringers as I am try­ing to arrange a band to ring on Wed­nes­day). Even­tu­ally, the lead­er looks at me and says, ‘You haven’t rung yet, what do you want to try?’ ‘I’d like to have a go at Kent,’ I reply. ‘In the­ory I can ring it.’

So we ring ‘three leads of Kent’, a shortened form of Kent in which a bob is called at each lead end so that it comes back to rounds after just three leads. I had nev­er rung bobs in Kent, but I had done my home­work before going to the meet­ing. Once again I chose to ring on bell 6, which with hind­sight was per­haps not the most inter­est­ing bell to ring. At each lead end a bob was called and instead of mak­ing Kent places down (4ths then 3rds) I did an extra two dodges in 5–6 down. If I had chosen the 4, then at the first lead end I would have been unaf­fected by the bob and would have gone into the slow (mak­ing 2nds place over each of the oth­er bells in turn), and at the second lead end I would have come out of the slow and, again unaf­fected by the bob, made 3rds and 4ths up, and then at the the third lead end made 3rds and 4ths up again (which is rounds).

I quickly found that the ropes were rather long, and I had to move my hands fur­ther up the rope, so that I had per­haps 15 inches of the tail end below my hands. This is not ideal, as I kept get­ting smacked in the face by it, and I could still have done with tak­ing in a bit more. If I had known this before I star­ted then I could have tied a knot in the rope, or tucked the tail end up on my little fin­ger. But as it was it reduced my con­trol over the bell.

I think the best that could be said was that I didn’t get lost, that I knew exactly what I was meant to be doing, and that I didn’t need the instruc­tions from the expert ringers around me — ‘lead now’, ‘dodge with me now’, and so on, help­ful though such com­ments are. But I clearly need to con­cen­trate on my strik­ing: that is, on mak­ing the bell sound in exactly the right place. Although I didn’t get lost in this meth­od, that doesn’t mean that I was pla­cing my bell just where it should be, and I could tell this from my own hands, and with my ears, listen­ing to the bells as they rung. The oth­er ringers were, of course, much too polite to tell me how bad my ringing was.


  • I’m sorry to hear of your exper­i­ence with a long rope. I get get quite frus­trated at the ‘rope length man­age­ment’ on my travels. I fully under­stand that the weath­er can change the length of ropes and also, ringers are not all the same height. But, who­ever looks after the bells should set the sallys to the cor­rect height every so ofter. Who­ever is look­ig after the ringing at a prac­tise should be allowed to shorten any very long tail ends. Who­ever looks after the bells should set the sally height every so often. Unless you’re very tall you shouldn’t have to put up with a tail end hit­ting you in the face. 

    Well done with your pro­gress and with your diary.

    Regards, John Ramsbottom 

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