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 26. Posted by Ghengis Kharen

    on 2 Feb 2011 22:44

    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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  • Comment number 25. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 2 Feb 2011 17:35

    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 24. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 1 Feb 2011 16:09

    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 23. Posted by I_never_write

    on 1 Feb 2011 15:30

    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


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  • Comment number 22. Posted by kitcurtis

    on 31 Jan 2011 17:03

    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!!!

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by root4me

    on 31 Jan 2011 14:22

    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

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 31 Jan 2011 13:48

    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 19. Posted by Sylvias Mother

    on 30 Jan 2011 22:45

    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.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by PinaGrigio

    on 28 Jan 2011 13:25

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

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by MrThrowback

    on 27 Jan 2011 14:38

    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?

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