Thinking allowed

learning London Surprise Major

Having more or less successfully rung a Plain course of Bristol Surprise Major last weekend, it’s time — like Dick Whittington — to turn to London: London Surprise Major, that is. London is the last of the “standard eight” Surprise Major methods, and Coleman describes it as the zenith of standard surprise. But he also suggests that it is easier to learn than Bristol, and strongly recommends learning it by place bells. Other London web pages seem to agree, one suggesting learning pairs of place bells together, as in each pair one is the mirror of the other.

The order of the place bells is the same as for Rutland and Bristol: 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 6, 4; with the pairs being: 2 and 4, 3 and 6, and 5 and 8; while 7 is symmetric about the half-lead end.

There are a few familiar pieces of work:

  • Stedman whole turn, which occurs only on the front
  • fishtails, which occur at the back (8-7-8), and also both ways in 5-6 — 6-5-6 and 5-6-5
  • plain hunting below the treble — but plain hunting “wrong”, i.e., leading with backstroke then handstroke (“back and hand”) rather than handstroke then backstroke (“hand and back”)
  • treble-bob hunting above the treble, sometimes “right” and sometimes “wrong”

When you meet, or are about to meet, the treble you have to get back into phase with it, either to pass it, or to dodge with it. You do this by making a place, or by doing a Stedman whole turn, or doing fishtails.

Another point to note is that the 4th-place bell and above all start in the opposite direction compared with most methods learned so far. So even bells (≥4) go out, and odd bells (>4) go in. The 8th-place bell strikes an extra blow at handstroke in 8th place before going down.

Other than that it seems that the only way to learn this is by place bells, which we do in the full article.


1x------

Starting as the 2:

x1------
1x------
x1------
x-1-----
-x-1----
-x1-----
x--1----
-x--1---
--x--1--
---x1---
---x-1--
--x---1-
-x-----1
x-----1-
x------1
-x-----1
--x---1-
---x---1
----x-1-
----x1--
----1x--
----x1--
----1x--
---1--x-
--1----x
---1--x-
--1----x
-1----x-
1----x--
-1--x---
1--x----
1-x-----

Become the 3

-1x-----
1--x----
-1--x---
--1--x--
---1x---
--1--x--
---1x---
---x1---
---x-1--
--x-1---
-x---1--
x-----1-
x------1
-x----1-
--x----1
---x---1
----x-1-
-----x-1
-----x1-
-----1x-
----1--x
-----1x-
----1--x
---1---x
--1---x-
---1---x
--1---x-
-1-----x
1------x
-1----x-
1----x--
1---x---

become the 5

-1-x----
1-x-----
-1x-----
-x1-----
x--1----
x-1-----
-x-1----
x---1---
x----1--
-x--1---
--x--1--
---x--1-
----x--1
-----x1-
-----x-1
------x1
------1x
------x1
------1x
-----1-x
----1-x-
-----1-x
----1-x-
---1-x--
--1-x---
---1-x--
--1-x---
-1---x--
1-----x-
-1-----x
1------x
1-----x-

become the 7

-1---x--
1---x---
-1-x----
--1x----
--x1----
--1x----
--x1----
--x-1---
-x---1--
x---1---
x----1--
-x----1-
--x----1
---x--1-
----x--1
----x--1
---x--1-
--x----1
-x----1-
x----1--
x---1---
-x---1--
--x-1---
--x1----
--1x----
--x1----
--1x----
-1-x----
1---x---
-1---x--
1-----x-
1------x

become the 8

-1-----x
1-----x-
-1---x--
--1-x---
---1-x--
--1-x---
---1-x--
----1-x-
-----1-x
----1-x-
-----1-x
------1x
------x1
------1x
------x1
-----x-1
-----x1-
----x--1
---x--1-
--x--1--
-x--1---
x----1--
x---1---
-x-1----
x-1-----
x--1----
-x1-----
-1x-----
1-x-----
-1-x----
1---x---
1----x--

become the 6

-1----x-
1------x
-1-----x
--1---x-
---1---x
--1---x-
---1---x
----1--x
-----1x-
----1--x
-----1x-
-----x1-
-----x-1
----x-1-
---x---1
--x----1
-x----1-
x------1
x-----1-
-x---1--
--x-1---
---x-1--
---x1---
---1x---
--1--x--
---1x---
--1--x--
-1--x---
1--x----
-1x-----
1-x-----
1--x----

become the 4

-1--x---
1----x--
-1----x-
--1----x
---1--x-
--1----x
---1--x-
----1x--
----x1--
----1x--
----x1--
----x-1-
---x---1
--x---1-
-x-----1
x------1
x-----1-
-x-----1
--x---1-
---x-1--
---x1---
--x--1--
-x--1---
x--1----
-x1-----
-x-1----
x-1-----
x1------
1x------
x1------
1x------
1x------

and become the 2 (which is rounds)

1 comment

  • Simon Kershaw says:

    And the quarterly district surprise practice came round, and I got a chance to try ringing London Surprise Major.

    I rang the 3, and we got through three leads, so I rang the 3rd place bell, then the 5th place bell and the 7th place bell. As I came to the end of the 7th place bell my mind suddenly went blank and I wondered which place bell I was about to become. I decided, wrongly, that it was the 6th, but it should have been the 8th. So I did two blows at the back, which is the same in either case, and then started fishtails at the back (essentially dodging 7-8 up). “Fishtails in 5-6-5” I was quickly told, but before I had a chance to put myself right, “Rounds” was called — apparently another ringer was lost, and the conductor gave up.

    Unfortunately we didn’t get to try London again, so I shall have to wait for another occasion. I suppose the good point to take away was that I had rung the first three leads pretty well, and if I hadn’t had a mental block would have carried on.

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