Interested in bell ringing history?

Technology is helping us get closer to the fascinating history of bell ringing like never before. Thanks to the hard work of the Central Council's Historical and Archive Workgroup, we can now explore the rich history of bell ringing with a click. They are also finding a new home for their physical archives to keep them safe.

The Historical and Archive Workgroup is a group of volunteers who love bell ringing history. They want to make sure it's protected and shared with everyone.

We Hear from the Experts

In a recent episode of the podcast, Cathy talked to 2 members of the workgroup. Chris Ridley, who leads the workgroup and Gareth Davies, who is a bell-ringing historian. The workgroup catalogues and preserves the exciting past of bell ringing and encourages others to get involved. As well as describing the activities of the workgroup, Chris and Gareth mentioned lots of fun historical facts. You must listen to the full episode to hear these!

What the Workgroup Does 

The Workgroup collects historical information about bells and bell ringing. They make it available to both bell ringers and the public. Chris outlined the specific areas that different sub-groups are working on:

1. Belfry Artifacts: This group manages the Peal Board Recording Project. For this, people contribute pictures and share information about important Peal Boards. The goal is to create a database that links these images to peal and tower records.

2. Biographies: This group compiles biographies of bell ringers. This includes an index of obituaries and the Roles of Honour. The Roles of Honour project is about ringers who served in the world wars. This project led to a successful campaign to recruit new ringers.

3. Historical Information: This group sets up databases and a website to bring together scattered historical information. Newspaper extracts provide detailed accounts of controversies, innovations, and changes in bell ringing.

4. Library Collection: They have a large collection of around 4,500 books about bell ringing. The Friends of the Library support this work.

5. Recordings: This group is being set up to collect recordings of bells and oral histories of ringers.

6. Ringing Artefacts: This group collects ringing machines, society badges, certificates, logos, historic prints, and illuminated peal books.

The digitised information and materials are now more accessible than ever. This offers exciting research possibilities. Newspaper extracts, obituaries, peal boards, certificates and badges tell the stories of past bell ringers. Visual materials also provide a historical perspective on the changing designs over the years.

Passion and Research Combined

Gareth Davies is passionate about how people can use this material. He sees it as being useful for both bell ringers and the public. He emphasises the importance of understanding the environments where bell ringing happens. With questions like ‘Why is the Ringing Room in a gallery?’ he says you can get valuable insights.

Encouraging Research and Preserving History 

Gareth is keen to get younger generations interested in history. He is working on a project to create 'I Spy' books. These are to help people develop observational skills and spark curiosity. This project aims to create bell historians for the future. Two young people are working on it so that it will appeal to younger people. 

In Conclusion 

Both Chris and Gareth ended their interviews by telling us when, in the past, they would most like to visit. Their answers were lots of fun and showed us why they enjoy history so much.

The Central Council's Historical and Archive Workgroup ensures that the rich history of bell ringing is being preserved and made accessible for future generations. The Council is always looking for more volunteers to join their mission. By preserving our historical wealth, they hope to inspire future historians to explore the fascinating stories of bell ringing.

To find out more about this episode: You can listen to this episode, read the transcript or watch the video. Both the video and the transcript contain images relating to the discussions.

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Cathy Booth
Cathy Booth
Podcast Host
Gareth Davies
Gareth Davies
phd student
Chris Ridley
Chris Ridley
Lead, Historic & Archive Working Group