Involving at least as much maths as music!

The Unitarian Church, Todmorden, bells have recently been restored
The Unitarian Church, Todmorden, bells have recently been restored

Stuart Crosby gave a fascinating talk to Todmorden Antiquarians entitled ‘Bells, Bell-ringing and Bell-ringers’.

Stuart is tower-captain of bell-ringing at St James ‘s Church in Brindle.

His presentation included international, national and local interwoven topics concerning church bells.

He began by explaining that bells are made proportionally from ~80 per cent copper and 20 per cent tin – tin helps harden the metal. Bells date back to 2000BC in Ancient China.

Regionally, Whitby Abbey bells date from 680AD and York bells tolled from 750AD. Stuart explained that historically church bells were made on-site, with those at St James, Brindle dating from 1530 – yet still in use today!

In Todmorden the original 1868 Unitarian Church bells have recently been restored. St Mary’s and Walsden St Peter’s bells date from late Victorian times.

Stuart was pleased to tell us that the 19th century costly bells from Christ Church were re-located to Towcester, and those from St Paul’s at Cross Stone went to Thornhill, so all Todmordian church bells are still ringing.

Next Stuart demonstrated, with hand-bells brought along, the difference between hitting, clocking and swinging bells.

He showed slides and video-clips depicting how bell leverage and control developed.

Six Antiquarians ably helped Stuart demonstrate the change-ringing rounds methods.

Progressively, we learnt about hand-stroke, backstroke, and the mathematical puzzles and permutations involved.

We were told that most bell-ringing was done by Monks and Priests before Henry VIII’s reign.

From late 17th century, Societies were formed for the new science of bell-ringing with complex methods and high standards imposed.

Later, bell-ringing became a secular sport with belfries used as recreational places for drinking and smoking, a minimal role from the church!

But reforming clerics became unhappy with this situation, continued Stuart.

Belfry Reform Societies emerged under the Church’s remit, becoming an integral part of work and life.

The Lancashire Association, formed in 1876, promoted the art and science of church bell-ringing.

The ‘olden’ Lancashire area, included Manchester, Merseyside and Furness, encompassed all - secular, Unitarian, Church of England, Roman Catholic Churches etc.

In conclusion, Stuart mentioned that most lady bell-ringers only joined since the second world war, that it is not over-strenuous.

He has recently successfully taught an 87 year old, and bell-ringers are sociable and more always welcomed!

The next meeting of Todmorden Antiquarians will be at 7.30 pm in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room on Tuesday, February 24 when Corinne McDonald will present ‘Temperance in the Upper Calder Valley’.

Visitors are most welcome.