News from the Bell Tower
by Liz Griffith-Jones

Church bellringers cannot ring tunes on their bells because the mechanics of ringing make it too difficult to get each note in the right place. If you do hear a tune coming from a bell tower it is being played on a carillon which is a set of bells connected to a set of keys like a piano.

Instead of ringing tunes, we ring sets of changes called 'methods'. These methods are given names, for example Grandsire Triples or Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. The first part of the name, eg Yorkshire Surprise, is the method name and the last part, eg Triples, tells you how many bells it is rung on. Five bell methods are called 'doubles', six bell methods 'minor', seven bell methods 'triples' and eight bell methods 'major'. Nine, ten, eleven and twelve bell methods are called caters, royal, cinques and maximus respectively. Method names are part of the history and romance of bellringing.

Simple mathematics tells us that if you have five bells, there are 120 different orders, called changes, that they can be rung in. There are lots of different ways to get these 120 changes; but to qualify as a valid method, certain rules have been laid down. The most important is that any bell cannot be moved more than one place in the order each change. For example if the bells are being rung in rounds, 12345, the next change could be 21435 but not 35421. This takes into account the mechanics of ringing tower bells.

Bells being returned

Here at Henham church we have a lovely set of six bells. There is a tradition of ringing previously unrung methods and naming them after towns, villages, counties, etc. No method has ever been named 'Henham' so it has long been my ambition to ring and name a new method after my home tower. A couple of weeks ago we noticed that a band, unconnected with our villages had rung a new method and named it 'Elsenham Surprise Minor'. We were worried that they might soon name a method after our village so we thought we ought to get in first.

A set of previously unrung changes was identified and six of us met on Monday 3rd February 2014 to attempt a quarter peal in the new method. Ringing is full of rules and one of them says that you can only name a new method if you have rung a certain number of changes in it. On six bells there are 720 possible changes and you must ring them all to name the method. We chose to ring a quarter peel of 1320 changes which came round successfully in 43 minutes. We are delighted to name the new method Henham Surprise Minor.

The picture is the return of the bells in October 1985 after repair.

 

I hope the above has given you some idea of the fascination of bellringing. It is a wonderful physical and mental exercise. You don't need to be strong or mathematical or musical to become a good ringer. Here at Henham we have a friendly band and we would like to recruit a few new ringers. Come and see us in the tower any Thursday evening between 7.45 and 9.00pm.

Click here to read more articles about bellringing and to hear the bells

The following images were taken by Dave Cutts and ably assisted up the ladder and into the tower by Bill Griffith-Jones

Bellringer

church 85 88
89 93 208
209 211 214
227 219 76

as Dave ascended the ladder
81 33 belldown


We are very grateful to Liz & Bill Griffiths-Jones for the following historically-important photographs, and accompanying descriptions, they have taken inside St. Mary's tower. Click on any image to enlarge.



1 0 1 00 12
1 0 - Two from above
1 00 - Two, Three looking down
12 - Two, down
 
13 1 4 1 7
13 - Looking almost straight down at Two (foreground) and Three (behind its wheel). Four and Five are hidden under beams on the right side 1 4 - Bell Four seen from above through a gap between the old beams 1 7 - General view from above, bells down, access passage on the right. Bells are:
5
6
1
4
2
3 (pt. wheel showing)
 
1 6 1 8 1 9
1 6 - Looking down -
5
6
1
4
2
3
1 8 - Treble and Tenor - top and bottom of ring of the newest and oldest bells
1 9 - Treble, down, showing the inscription on this side
 
112 113 115
112 Bells - Three and Two (on right) from directly above
113 - Looking into the mouth of Bell Two. The bell's up. Bell Three is at the edge of the picture
115 - Bells Three and Two with part of the wheel of Four
 
114 121 123
114 - Showing the camera position above the bells used for the overhead and general pictures. Bell Three is visible as is part of Bell Two and the wheel of Bell Four is just showing. The old beams are part of the old rotten bell frame which is not allowed to be dismanted as it is 'protected heritage'

121 Two up showing inscription

123 Treble, up
 
116 119 131
116 - Bells Three and Two from a position above the Tenor
119 - Three and Treble, Tenor seen through the ladder. Platform seen above Tenor is for access to the top of the tower. 131 - Slider and Stay of Three with the bell up at handstroke
 
124 125 126
124 - Slider and Stay of Treble. Bell up at handstroke
125 - The Tenor, Six, Bell up
126 - Tenor up
 
128 131
bells
128 - This is the top - Bell Three, up not down
131 - Slider and Stay of Three. Bell up at handstroke



In 2015 Carol Eaton thoughtfully loaned us several dozen papers that are part of the late Miss Winmill's collection which had passed to the late Miss Pimblett. Those papers that concern St Mary's church are reproduced below. Click on any image to view enlarged view.

CHURCH GRAFFITI  
1a 1b

THE STORY OF AN ESSEX VILLAGE (pt1)
2a

THE STORY OF AN ESSEX VILLAGE (pt2)

2b

THE STORY OF AN ESSEX VILLAGE (pt3)

 
2c

THE STORY OF AN ESSEX VILLAGE (pt4)
THE WILL OF THURSTON
2d 3a

ST MARY's - PAROCHIAL VISITATIONS 1859 - 1901

4a 4b

HENHAM CONSERVATION SOCIETY 1974
5a 5b

HENHAM COATS OF ARMS


6a 15a

THE HENHAM TOKEN



7a 7b

ESSEX DIALECTS AND CUSTOMS
8a 8b
8c

ST MARY's CHURCHYARD - ANTI BODY-SNATCHING CAGE
NOTES ON ST MARY's (possibly by Miss Winmill)
9 10a
RE-DEDICATION OF THE ANCIENT RING OF SIX BELLS Sunday 13th Oct. 1985
12a 12b
   
12c 12d
12e1 12e2
13a
ST MARY's - A BRIEF HISTORY
13b 13c
13d 13e
REPORT AND PART QUOTATION FOR REPAIRING ST MARY's BELLS
 
13f 13g
13h
ST MARY's - PANEL OF MEDIEVAL TILES



16a 16b
IMAGINE YOURSELF IN ST MARY's ABOUT 1250 AD

THE HOLED FLINT AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE

17a 18a
WOODEN DISC FROM PLEDGDON HALL

SHAFTHOLE ADZE FROM LOVECOTT FARM

19a 19b
HENHAM CONSERVATION SOCIETY NEWSLETTER AUTUMN 1979

 
20a 20b
   
20c 20d
   
20e
 
Map



 


© Henham History