The how-to and history of handbell ringing: Cat Nettle

An Interview with Cat Nettle

Hand bells, bell plates, hand chimes and boomwhackers – who knew there was so much variety!?! In this episode, Cat Nettle talks Cathy Booth through the wonderful world of handbell ringing, filling her in on the history, range of instruments and styles of ringing,

Cathy discovers that hand bellringing allegedly began when church bell ringers, unable to get into their towers for one reason or another, asked manufacturers to make small bells so that they could practice in the pub – smart move. With the addition of some extra bells they found they could join in with the hymns and hand bell ringing became an art in its own right. How do handbells work? How much do they cost? Can you fit them all into your car?

The Music Makers in concert

Cathy asks Cat all the questions that you’re dying to ask, and more. Yes, handbell ringers do occasionally let go of them and yes, they’re insured. The different style of bells means that all ages can learn to ring – from toddlers up to people in their nineties, and Cat is justifiably proud of her all-age ringing team. Hear about the triumphs and tribulations of leading a team and some of their scrapes – all part of the fun of ringing at weddings, functions and outside events.

About Cat Nettle

Cat has been ringing Handbells since 1991 and, after being thrown in the deep end, took over running The Music Makers in 1999. They’ve had our ups and downs but now have a really good solid team of ringers that she is proud to take anywhere. This year, to celebrate their 20th anniversary, they are going to ring in 20 unusual places.


Top five takeaways

  • You don’t need to be able to read music to be able to play handbells – this means that it’s the ideal way of introducing tunes to toddlers.
  • Unlike church bell change ringing, handbell ringing is more developed in other countries such as the USA and Asia.
  • For some amazing handbell ringing, check out Damien Lim and the Ministry of Bellz
  • Ringers can play in small groups but can get together for mass ringing, or ring in an orchestra of 35 – 40 ringers.
  • Interested in finding out more and having a go? The go-to place is the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain

Ask the Expert

Pip Penney answered the following questions in this episode:

  • Chris: “My teacher tells me to ring faster so I pull harder but the bell just goes slower. What am I doing wrong and how can I correct this?”
  • Rosa: “How old do I have to be before I can learn to ring tower bells?”
  • Stuart: “Is tower bell ringing dangerous?”
  • John: “What is the best way to learn to ring tower bells?”

Leave a Reply

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