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What is a quarter peal?

Rosemary Watts Rosemary Watts | 19:00 PM, Sunday, 23 January 2011

church bells


This Sunday (23 Jan), the bells of St Stephen's Ambridge will ring a 'quarter peal' in memory of departed bell ringer Nigel Pargetter.

Quarter peals are rung for many reasons: special events, birthdays, weddings or in remembrance of someone, as today. Some churches who are able to muster the requisite number of ringers may ring quarters for the normal Sunday services. But whether for normal services, or for something special, a quarter peal gives each ringer the chance to confirm their knowledge of a particular method, thereby extending their ability and enjoying a sense of achievement.

The method

To explain what a quarter peal is, one needs to know a bit about 'method ringing'. Method ringing is a form of 'change ringing' - which is the practice of ringing a series of mathematical permutations on tuned bells, rather than a melody.

In method ringing the ringers are guided through each set of changes by following a specific pattern (or order), called a method. The practice originated in England and is still popular for both church bell ringing and handbells.

Let's take the eight bells hanging in the church at St Stephen's in Ambridge. The highest in pitch is known as the treble and the lowest the tenor. The bells are referred to by number, with the treble being number 1 and the tenor being number 8.

The most simple way of using the bells is to ring in 'rounds,' which means ringing the bells in sequence from treble to tenor - ie 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. This sounds like a descending scale. The order of the eight can 'change' to a different permutation, depending on the method being rung.

Eg:

12345678
21436578
24163758
42617358
46271538 - five permutations (changes)

This is probably the origin for the phrase 'ringing the changes'.

There are hundreds of different methods. Each one has a different mathematical pattern and a different name, some of them being linked to the person who devised the method eg Stedman Triples, or named after places eg Yorkshire or Rutland.

Whether ringing a peal or quarter peal, the ringers must start the method in rounds. The conductor will then call out the method to be rung. A full peal on eight bells must last at least 5000 different changes. A performance of 1250 changes on 8 bells makes a quarter peal. A peal might take about three hours to ring, and a quarter peal 45 minutes.

Ringing is great fun. If you are interested in learning how to do it, do contact your local church. They probably have a keen band of ringers who would welcome you with open arms.

Rosemary Watts is a producer on The Archers - and a keen bell ringer.


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    No comments??

  • Comment number 2.

    As stated previously (on this blog) the explanation of a Quarter Peal is most interesting. Thanks to Rosemary for writing it.

    But many people are still extremely unhappy about the fact that the bells need to be rung "in memory of departed bell ringer Nigel Pargetter"

    Could the BBC explain why the blog disappeared, and has now reappeared with all the previous comments missing?

  • Comment number 3.

    From Google's cached version of this blog:

    2. At 7:33pm on 20 Jan 2011, nickwilcock wrote:

    Rosemary, thank you so much for that fascinating insight into the world of campanology!

    But what a great shame that so few people will hear St. Stephen's quarter peal.

    For which the blame lies totally with Whitburn and her ridiculous 'celebration' execution of the character of Nigel Pargetter.

    An apology and resolution of which remains long overdue.

    But thanks again for your interesting article.

  • Comment number 4.

    And an even greater shame that the synopsis (which I read because I have stopped listening) spells peal as "peel"!

    Bell-ringing is fascinating, thank you to Rosemary Watts.

  • Comment number 5.

    I too wish to say thanks to Rosemary for the above.

    Shame the original respectful feedback was edited out though. Keri - could you please reinstate the original comments as there were genuine appreciations and comments and question in there. Wiping out blog comments is not a positive way forward.

    But thanks to Rosemary nonetheless.

  • Comment number 6.

    Thank you to Rosemary Watts.
    What a pity the bells couldn't be ringing for a happy, joyful celebration instead of the passing of a lovely, already missed character.

  • Comment number 7.

    Rosemary,

    Bell ringing isn't my thing and while I'd heard all those references to 'quarter peals', I didn't think looking it up would be worth it.

    I was wrong and I wouldn;t have known it without you taking the time to write it as a blog - thank you for an interesting, short introduction into a new subject.

  • Comment number 8.

    @root4me - I reproduce my 2 comments from the previous thread below:

    1. As an ex-bell ringer (and an ex-listener) I too found the article interesting.
    There's loads of websites on ringing just search on Google; particularly on "Bell ringing method" - this shows the pattern the ringers learn (it's really quite straightforward). It's great, non-strenuous, exercise plus can be a great mental challenge. Most churches are built opposite a pub (or vice-versa) so our practice nights would start at 7.00, finish at 9.00 and then adjourn to the pub opposite for a couple of pints and a game of fives and threes!
    I would echo Rosemary's statement contact your local church and have a go.

    2.Campanologist
    Cam`pa·nol'o·gist noun One skilled in campanology; a bell ringer.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Rosemary

    Thank you for this background. My late FIL was a keen bellringer and when he died a quarter peal was rung for him. However, this was a muffled quarter peal, and so I'm writing to ask why Nigel's memorial peal wasn't muffled? My husband pointed it out and was quite surprised that this detail seemed to have been overlooked, particularly when all the other details (Neil's starting instructions for example) were correct.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 10.

    With regard to PinaGrigios comment on muffled bells. Maybe Nigel left instructions for a quarter to be rung "open" i.e. no muffles. The peal would have only been rung half muffled anyway. Muffling bells is done by fixing a hard leather strap to the clapper so that when the clapper stikes one side of the bell the leather is between clapper and bell, "muffling" the sound. The other side is not so shielded and the full sound of the bell is heard. It is very unusual to fully muffle the bells.

  • Comment number 11.

    Comments from Google's cached version of this blog:

    1. At 6:36pm on 20 Jan 2011, johnrh wrote:

    Actually how about ringing a quarter peal for the sadly departed faithful listeners whose feelings and opinions have been so cruelly ignored?

    2. At 7:33pm on 20 Jan 2011, nickwilcock wrote:

    Rosemary, thank you so much for that fascinating insight into the world of campanology!
    But what a great shame that so few people will hear St. Stephen's quarter peal.
    For which the blame lies totally with Whitburn and her ridiculous 'celbration' execution of the character of Nigel Pargetter.
    An apology and resolution of which remains long overdue.

    But thanks again for your interesting article.

    3. At 10:58pm on 20 Jan 2011, Waltersdaughter wrote:

    And still this blogspot carries on as if everyone is still listening. I only stop by now to read the comments of ex-listeners and to see if we've had a decent response yet.

    4. At 01:06am on 21 Jan 2011, DistantTraveller wrote:

    Thanks for this explanation - it's very interesting!
    Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the current storyline.

    The Archers has become rather un-appealing.
    It no longer chimes with the listeners.
    VW has dropped a clanger.
    Time to ring the changes.

  • Comment number 12.

    More Comments from Google's cached version of this blog:

    5. At 02:18am on 21 Jan 2011, PaulHammond26 wrote:

    Thanks for the information on change-ringing and peals - which I think I just about followed. Is there any pattern to how the method changes? How do people make sure that they have covered all (or a quarter) of the permutations without repeating? (I presume it is part of what happens that you aren't meant to repeat permutations)

    I do think it's a shame that people will use these blog comments to register their protests about the storyline, or how upset they feel, regardless of the subject of the blog. This is clearly someone who works on the Archers who happens to ring bells as a hobby, and wants to give people information about that hobby. I don't think it's really fair for people to hijack that subject to continue to protest about how much they dislike what happened on Jan 2 - I think it's fair to say that we have seen many posts of this nature on previous blog entries by Keri Davies, Mary Cutler and Vanessa Whitburn, where they were actually on topic.

    6. At 07:57am on 21 Jan 2011, anna kist wrote:

    I think, Paul, the problem is that people are still furious with the prodteam for the way they have ignored complaints. Poor Rosemary has just been caught in the crossfire as VW continues to hide from criticism. I am sure if VW dealt with her critics in an honest straightforward way the protests would end.

    Even Archers Addicts are still up in arms about what has happened to TA.

    7. At 08:28am on 21 Jan 2011, nickwilcock wrote:

    Anna, very true. Most who have posted here have been polite enough to thank Rosemary for her explanation of the 'quarter peal' - I found it most interesting as I'd often wondered what was involved!

    Blog hijacking is, however, highly probable given the current strength of feeling amongst ex-listeners to The Archers. Whitburn's silence merely furthers the strength of such feelings.

  • Comment number 13.

    And more Comments from Google's cached version of this blog:

    8. At 11:23am on 21 Jan 2011, annieoakley wrote:

    Fantastic! Thanks - I would never have guessed bell-ringing was so complex, almost a science really.

    Although I often listen to Bells On Sunday I'm afraid the introduction goes right over my head when the announcer goes on about the tenor weighing x amount of hundredweights, which foundry it was cast at, triples, changes and in the key of whatnot, etc............

    This item makes it a little easier to comprehend. Thanks.

    9. At 11:28am on 21 Jan 2011, cw wrote:

    As an ex-bell ringer (and an ex-listener) I too found the article interesting.
    There's loads of websites on ringing just search on Google; particularly on "Bell ringing method" - this shows the pattern the ringers learn (it's really quite straightforward). It's great, non-strenuous, exercise plus can be a great mental challenge. Most churches are built opposite a pub (or vice-versa) so our practice nights would start at 7.00, finish at 9.00 and then adjourn to the pub opposite for a couple of pints and a game of fives and threes!
    I would echo Rosemary's statement contact your local church and have a go

    10. At 11:35am on 21 Jan 2011, Cymraes154 wrote:

    Good explanation, but, Nick, it's bellringing not campanology. (I assume that campanologists ring in a campanile!) We are bellringers not campanologists!
    We've only been to the pub once in the 4 years I've been ringing - even though there is one nearby!!
    Why are people still complaining everywhere about Nigel's death? I was sad, but it's happened. I'm not going to stop listening just because I don't like what's happened. It was lovely to hear half muffled bells before his service.

    11. At 12:03pm on 21 Jan 2011, DistantTraveller wrote:

    # 5 PaulHammond26

    You say, "I don't think it's really fair for people to hijack that subject to continue to protest about how much they dislike what happened"

    It's rather odd that you accuse others of 'hijacking'

    At the top of the blog, Rosemary writes "This Sunday (23 Jan), the bells of St Stephen's Ambridge will ring a 'quarter peal' in memory of departed bell ringer Nigel Pargetter". Comments about the storyline are therefore entirely on topic.

    You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, as others are entitled to theirs. The fact that VW refuses to answer her many critics or address the objections to this storyline means that this will continue to rumble on.

    12. At 12:44pm on 21 Jan 2011, cw wrote:

    Campanologist
    Cam`pa·nol'o·gist noun One skilled in campanology; a bell ringer.

    13. At 12:50pm on 21 Jan 2011, dogshank wrote:

    Bell-ringing is well worth getting into. I've been doing it for about a year and I've only just got started with simple methods. It's difficult! But very rewarding. Did I hear the muffled bells for Thursday's funeral?

    As for The Archers... I'm still listening but not wholeheartedly. Yes people die in real life, but too many good characters have gone recently. And it seems like a contrivance and not in the spirit of the programme.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm so sorry, I can't find comments 14-16 from the first version of this blog. Perhaps a someone more canny could find and re-post them?
    (Thanks, nickwilcock, for the tip.)

    Anyway, thanks again, Rosemary, for your blog.

    PaulHammond26 asked: Is there any pattern to how the method changes? How do people make sure that they have covered all (or a quarter) of the permutations without repeating? (I presume it is part of what happens that you aren't meant to repeat permutations)

    Yes, the pattern of how the permutations change is what's known as the method. Each bell (number) can only change by one place each time, so each one has 3 options - quicker, slower, or same. So 1234 -> 2143 is allowed, so is 1234 -> 2134 but 1234 -> 2341 is not allowed.

    Taking Rosemary's example:
    12345678
    21436578
    24163758
    42617358
    46271538 - five permutations (changes)

    Now draw a line through one on the numbers - try 7 - that gives "start, same, quicker, quicker, quicker" but as a pictorial representation. That line is the route-map for bell number 7 in this example. That line pattern is the "method" (or fragment of a method, because they are longer and usually more complicated than this example). Different patterns = different methods.

    I'll leave it to someone else to explain further but, yes, you are absolutely right that you aren't meant to repeat the permutations.

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh, and Cymraes154, yes we are. We are bellringers and campanologists, just as people who shoot arrows are archers and toxophilists. But "bellringer" is the more straightforward term and therefore the more usual - and more useful. GK.

  • Comment number 16.

    Liking your work "Ghengis Kharen ex Archers fan", liking your work. :-)

    R4M

  • Comment number 17.

    Rosemary

    As you are clearly the expert input on bell ringing for The Archers (for which, congratulations!), can you fill us in on some questions we were asking on the message board but are now buried pages back: what did they ring for the Quarter? Who conducted? And do they really have such strength in depth in the St Stephen's band that the Tower Captain can take the treble?

  • Comment number 18.

    Msg 10 Willy, many thanks on the clarification re the muffling (or not). That makes perfect sense.

  • Comment number 19.

    It is a shame that Nigel Pargetter had to fall off a roof for us to be told by the BBC all about Quarter Peels. I did not hear them either as I have just had to stop listening to the Archers ...it just feels so fictitious now.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm sorry about the loss of the original comments. Quite unintentional, I assure you.

    We had a chance for the post to be mentioned by the continuity announcer after the relevant episode, but by then it had been replaced on the home page by the "Brenda v Matt" post (The homepage automatically pulls in the latest post).

    As we wanted people to be able to find the bell ringing post easily from the home page, the only way I could get it to appear there again was to delete it and re-post it. I didn't realise that would delete the comments as well.

    I'm still finding my way around the Moveable Type platform which runs our blogs. Yet another learning experience for me, which I'll take into account if this sort of thing happens in the future.

    Thank you to those who reposted them from Google.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks for the explanation and clarification Keri. It was looking a little "odd" from an outsider's perspective. :-)

    Could Rosemary be asked to feed back on some of the open questions please? Or to extend on some of the already-provided answers? It's good when there's a 2-way dialogue between poster and commenter. And we are genuinely interested you know!

    Thanks again for the explanation. R4M

  • Comment number 22.

    Thank you Rosemary. I read your blog with interest. It would, of course have been of more relevance had I still been and avid listener to The Archers!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Keri

    I'm afraid that you may regard this as off topic, but as there isn't anywhere else that I can find to post about the Blog itself, or to contact you as manager of it, can you please explain why the post 'The Archers Editor on the 60th Anniversary' listing at the bottom of the page clearly stated that there were 887 comments and those of us commenting regularly know that to be true - yet (depending on how you approach it) there are either only 601 at the moment - as on the page immediately above the box as I wrote, or only 101 on the first page, if you come into it awares.

    What was even odder was that when I posted this question over there just now it came up briefly as No 888, and then disappeared seconds later.... and when I immediately queried that in a comment the same thing happened ..... although the count at the bottom of the page now says 889.

    Are the missing comments going to be re-instated please, or have they been deleted?

    Thank you


  • Comment number 24.

    Mm, I see the problem. It looks like all the later comments have disappeared. I've no idea why it's happened, but it will be a technical fault rather than from any editorial action.

    Apologies for that. I'll investigate.

  • Comment number 25.

    Here are Rose's answers to the questions upthread

    >What did they ring for the Quarter?

    Because of time contraints in the episode, the recording we used hadn't actually moved into the method. However, the method we recorded was Stedman Triples - which is on eight bells.

    Stedman is what is called a 'principle' - where all of the working bells (which in triples is 1 - 7) follow the same path just starting at different points. The tenor - the lowest bell, bongs away at the back so to speak.

    >Who conducted?
    >And do they really have such strength in depth in the St Stephen's band that the Tower Captain can take the treble?

    This doesn't necessarily apply in the same way in Stedman because it's a principle. Neil, as conductor, could quite legitimately be ringing the treble because for some conductors it is easier the control the rest of the band if they are ringing the treble.

    Hope that's of interest!

  • Comment number 26.

    Thank-you, Mr Keri and Miss Rosemary.
    I am glad it was Stedman, it sounds good muffled and it explains why Neil was ringing the treble.

 

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