Ringing World Vol 39, Iss 1726, p161-2,

November 1944


  Twelve months ago to-day an order was issued by the Minister of Home Security which ordained that 'no person shall in Great Britain sound any church bell except for the purpose of summoning persons to worship on a Sunday, Christmas Day, or Good Friday.’ Worded as a prohibition, it was really a permission; for it ended the long silence which for more than three years had been imposed on bells and had been broken on two brief occasions only. A month later the new order was rescinded, and ringers recovered completely their former freedom from official interference. Now that a year has gone by it is as well to take stock of the situation.

 When the war came, and still more when the ban was imposed, the outlook for ringing was very dark and doubtful. At the first it seemed possible to do no more than keep a small amount of ringing going to serve as a nucleus round which change ringing might again be built up when peace returned. When the ban was imposed there were great fears that in perhaps the majority of places the art would simply die out, with very feeble hopes of revival within any measurable time.

  The expected did not happen. The imposition of the ban, though it put a stop to most of the ringers’ activities, did not weaken the Exercise to anything like the same extent that the outbreak of war did. That caused permanent loss;  the ban caused not much more than a temporary cessation of activity. Here we have a great cause for satisfaction, for it shows that there is at the centre of the Exercise a hard core of men whose devotion to ringing is proof against all changes and adverse circumstances. The outbreak of war had already left them practically alone and the ban did not to any extent diminish their numbers. It is on them that the future of the art depends, and since their loyalty is assured, the defection of the many whose interest in the belfries sits lightly on them is of no more than temporary importance.

  It is proverbally true that men do not know how much they value some things until they lose them. So it was with the people of England and their bells. We know now that church bells have not lost their old appeal, and any harm we may have suffered through the ban has been more than compensated bv that knowledge.

  The past twelve months have given ringers great cause for satisfaction and thankfulness. The loss caused by the war has been great and it will be long before the Exercise recovers its old strength and activity. But we know it can be done. Almost everywhere there are already signs of revival and growing activity, and two things especially encourage us to hope for the best in the future.

  One is the large number of young recruits that have come to the belfry. They have had exceptional opportunities, for bands are depleted and there is much more room for newcomers. But even so an exceptionally large proportion of these young ringers have proved themselves of more than average ability. It were invidious to mention names, but at Enfield and Birmingham and elsewhere there are those who may be leading ringers of the future.

  The other good sign is the great sale of the leading text books on ringing. That means that the best available information is being widely spread among the newcomers, and it cannot but have an excellent effect in the future years.

  Taking all things together we may conclude that the Exercise is alive and healthy, and we need not doubt that the effort necessary to re-establish the art will be made when the time comes and will be successful.

End of Article


 Back to Historical Articles Index

 Go back to Homepage