## What is a quarter peal?

Sunday 23 January 2011, 19:00

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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.

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#### 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?

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#### 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.

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#### 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.

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#### 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.

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