top of page

King Charles coronation: 'We want bell-ringers in every church'

Bell-ringers are training in readiness to ring for King Charles's coronation

The bells of the waterfront Church of St Clement, in Ipswich, still ring out on cold February nights.

The deconsecrated Suffolk church is currently the location of bell-ringing training for a band of campanologists getting ready to ring for the King's coronation.

"We want to make sure that there are ringers for every church so that we can all ring out for the coronation," says Amanda Richmond, from the Association of Ringing Teachers.

Amanda Richmond is teaching beginners the art of bell-ringing

The group Ms Richmond is leading is made up of well-established bell-ringers with decades of experience as well as those just starting to learn the art.

Most of the newer members have answered the call to Ring for the King, a recent plea from the bell-ringing community for people to come forward and learn the skill in time for the coronation.

Following the announcement of the coronation, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) initiated an appeal to recruit more ringers.

"Some of our beginners here [in Ipswich] learnt because of the Queen's jubilee and they wanted to be able to ring for that and then a lot of them rang when the Queen died, so we've had this constant teaching of beginners right the way through since that original push," says Ms Richmond.

Beginner bell-ringer Fiona Smith took up the pastime last year

Fiona Smith, a 55-year-old occupational therapist from Woodbridge, has only been ringing since November.

Her late grandfather was an experienced bell-ringer and she believes he would be proud of her learning to ring just in time for 6 May.

She says: "To be ringing for the coronation, he would be chuffed.

"At the moment I'm excited about it, I can't imagine that I'm going to be quite ready but I hope I will. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity isn't it, really?"

'A bit like riding a bike'

Janus Van Helvert says he's been able to pick up bell-ringing again after 30 years

At St Clement's ringing session is 61-year-old grandfather Janus Van Helvert, a Soka Buddhist who used to bell-ring in the early 90s.

Now, after a 30-year absence, he is back in a ringing gallery after seeing the advert about ringing for the King's coronation.

He says: "He's such a great environmentalist and I'm an environmentalist too, I thought I'd come back and ring for the coronation.

"I thought I'd have to start right from the very beginning again, but the basic control of the bell was a bit like riding a bike... It's fun and it does get your brain going."

The Church of St Lawrence in Ipswich ring the bells every Wednesday

As well as St Clement, the group also uses the medieval bells just across town, at the Church of St Lawrence, a decommissioned church now used as a community hub with a bustling café.

"It's a lovely, light, pleasant environment to ring in, so it's great," says Katharine Salter from the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, who has been bell-ringing for 41 years.

Restored several years ago, "the oldest ring of five bells in the country" are rung every Wednesday lunchtime, a fixture which is also doubling up as extra practice time for the new learners.

'There aren't enough bell-ringers'

Historically people used to start ringing in their teenage years

David Kirkcaldy from the CCCBR says: "We have an ageing population of bell-ringers.

"More mature people have come forward in recent years and often say 'I wish I'd taken this up earlier' but historically, lots of people did start ringing in their teenage years."

Current estimates from the council suggest there are 30,000 to 40,000 bell-ringers across the UK and more are needed.

"There isn't enough to man every bell, which would be a good starting point," says Mr Kirkcaldy.

A website set up by the Association of Ringing Teachers has seen the 20 to 30 enquiries they usually get a month increase fivefold ahead of the coronation.


6 views0 comments


bottom of page