Thinking allowed

Looking at Cambridge Surprise (again)

I’ve been ringing Cambridge Surprise for quite a few years now. I began with Minor (in 2005), learning the various pieces of work by rote. Then when I could do that I moved on to Major (in 2006), again, learning by rote the bits that were different from Minor. Then I got to the point that I could barely remember how to ring Minor, because I always forgot which bits of Major to leave out. I’ve got over that too, and recently have begun to ring Minor a bit more, because we have ringers who have moved on to learning it.

All of which sparked an interest in learning Cambridge Surprise Royal, i.e. on 10 bells. (Ringing it would be a rather different matter as I’m not a ten-bell ringer, and although I have rung Caters a handful of times, I’ve never rung Royal. But I want to stick with the theory for a bit.)

So I looked up the blue line for Cambridge Surprise Royal, and in searching for it I came instead across descriptions of Cambridge, and I realized I had been missing something about Cambridge all these years. The sort of thing that makes me wonder whether I could have learnt the method in a much better way — rather than learning sections by rote, and then re-learning it by place bells, instead learning it and ringing it from first principles. Because the principle behind Cambridge, on any number of bells, is quite simple.

Here it is:

  • the treble always treble-bob hunts from the front, out to the back where it lies behind and then treble-bob hunts down to the front again; and it does this over and over again, (n-1) times in a plain course, where n is the number of bells (6 for Minor, 8 for Major, 10 for Royal, etc).
  • each of the other bells also treble-bob hunts, but it does so “out of phase” with the treble. This means that whenever it meets the treble, it must change its pattern of treble-bob hunting to fit around the treble.

What do we mean by treble-bob hunting “out of phase”, and what are the consequences of this?


By treble-bob hunting “out of phase” we mean that when the treble dodges the other bells plain hunt, and when the treble plain hunts the other bells dodge. Like this:

1-x-----
-1-x----
1---x---
-1---x--
--1-x---
---1-x--
--1---x-
---1---x

All dodges for all bells are confined to “dodging positions” 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 etc, and never in say 2-3 or 4-5. And all dodges are at backstroke.

The variations from treble-bob hunting, if you’re not on the front or at the back, are simple too:

  • if you haven’t yet dodged in this dodging position and the treble is immediately adjacent to you (i.e. above you if you are hunting up, or below you if you are hunting down) then you plain hunt past the treble and out the other side

    -1---x
    1---x-
    1----x
    -1--x-
    1--x--
    -1x--- meet the treble before dodging, so plain hunt through
    -x1---
    x--1--

  • or if you have already dodged with another bell in this dodging position and the treble is immediately adjacent then you make places to get into phase with the treble, dodge with the treble, and then make places the other side of the treble to get back into phase with the other bells, and start treble-bob hunting again
    1---vx-- dodging with another bell, v
    -1--xv--
    --1-vx--
    ---1xv-- meet the treble after dodging …
    --1-x--- so make places (far to wait for the treble …
    ---1-x--
    ----1x--
    ----x1--
    ----1x-- … and dodge with it
    ----x1--
    ----x-1- and make places again to wait for another bell …
    -----x-1
    ----yx1-
    ----xy-1
    ----yx-1 … and dodge with the other bell, y
    This is, of course, the piece of work called “Cambridge places”.

This will work provided you aren’t at the front or back. It has to be modified there because there is nowhere for another bell to go to or come from:

  • on the front you do a curtailed version of what has just been described: you start off doing exactly the same as if you had met the treble somewhere else away from the front or back, but after dodging with the treble, it leads and (in a plain course) you make 2nd place over it, turning around to do the work in reverse.This is the piece of work called “Cambridge frontwork”, but looked at this way it is no different from curtailed Cambridge places: you are treble-bob hunting and find the treble immediately above you after a dodge, so you make places (2nd place and lead) to be in phase with the treble, which you now dodge with. Then comes the lead end which interrupts the places: you make 2nd place over the treble and turn around, dodge down with the treble and make places (lead and 2nds); you are now back in phase with the other bells and resume treble-bob hunting, back down to the lead and then up again.
    vx---- treble-bobbing, dodge down with bell v
    xv----
    vx----
    xvy--- lead
    xyv---
    yx---- still treble-bobbing, dodge up with bell y
    xy-1--
    yx1--- meet the treble after dodging …
    yx-1-- … so make places to wait for the treble …
    xy1---
    x1y---
    1x----
    x1---- … and dodge with it
    1x----
    1x---- lead end, so make 2nd place over the treble and become the 2nd place bell

So the only time you really have to do anything different is when you meet the treble at the back.

  • if you have just lain at the back and are dodging down, and the treble is below you after the dodge, then add another dodge (i.e. double-dodge) to wait for the treble, and plain hunt past it. This is what the 5th-place bell does. The effect of the extra dodge at the back followed by the missed dodge is to leave you in phase with the other bells and still out of phase with the treble.
    -----x
    1----x lie and dodge down
    -1--x-
    --1--x
    ---1x- meet the treble after dodging …
    --1--x … so add another dodge …
    ---1x-
    ---x1- … and pass the treble
    --x--1
    -x--1-
    x----1
    -x----
    x-----
  • if you passed through the treble in (n-3)-(n-2) up, e.g. in 5-6 in Major, then double-dodge up in (n-1)-n, e.g. in 7-8 in Major, to get back into phase with the other bells, and begin treble-bob hunting again. This is what the 2nd-place bell does, passing the treble at the back and double-dodging up, and of course is just the mirror of what the 5th-place bell does.
    x----1
    -x--1-
    --x--1
    ---x1- meet the treble before dodging …
    ---1x-
    --1--x … so pass through …
    ---1x-
    --1--x
    -1--x- … and double dodge to compensate
    1----x
    -1---x
    1---x-
    1----x
    ----x-
  • the 3rd-place bell also does an extra dodge in (n-1)-n up, so that it is ready to dodge down with the treble which comes up to meet it; it then makes (n-1)th place under the treble. This is the half-lead, so it turns around and does the mirror of what it has just done: it dodges up with the treble and lies and double-dodges down to get back into phase with the other bells; and then it treble-bob hunts down.
    1-x---
    -1-x--
    1---x- treble-bobbing up; the treble is coming up to the back after you …
    -1---x
    --1-x-
    ---1-x
    --1-x- … so add an extra dodge to wait for the treble
    ---1-x … lie, and …
    ----1x
    ----x1
    ----1x … dodge down with the treble
    ----x1
    ----x1 half-lead, so make (n-1)th place …
    ----1x
    ----x1 … and dodge back up with the treble …
    ----1x
    ---1-x … lie, and …
    --1-x-
    ---1-x … double-dodge down to get back in phase …
    --1-x-
    -1---x
    1---x-
    -1-x-- … and resume treble-bobbing down
    1-x---
    1--x--
    The double-dodge up is with the 5th-place bell double-dodging down; and the double dodge down is with the 2nd-place bell which is double dodging up. This is the only situation in which you have to do something different from treble-bob hunting even though the treble is not immediately adjacent to you. As this is always confined to the 3rd-place bell it’s not too difficult to remember.

And that is all there is to Cambridge Surprise on any number of bells.

(With acknowledgement to Changeringing Wiki.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *