All Saints bells ringing out - for now

THE sound of church bells ringing out across towns and villages is one of those things that you take for granted - until they fall silent.

And with shrinking numbers of ringers, the sound of silence could become a reality unless more volunteers can be found.

Gainsborough’s All Saints Church has a team of eight ringers, which is the bare minimum needed for the eight bells.

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Robin Heppenstall has been a ringer since the 1950s when he was a member of the church youth group.

He said: “The bells weren’t rung during the war and after it ended a lot of the ringers didn’t go back so there was a shortage.”

“Quite a few of us joined from the youth group but I’m the only one still here.”

“We only have eight members so if somebody goes on holiday we struggle.”

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Robin, of William Road, Lea, said the bells were generally rung twice on Sundays, before the morning and evening services.

The bells can also be heard on Monday nights when the ringers are practising.

Robin is a member of The Ringing Foundation which is trying to recruit more members nationally.

He said: “Young people have more activities these days than when I started, and the teaching isn’t always as good as it could be.”

“This is something the foundation is hoping to address.”

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He said there were two stages to ringing, firstly learning how to control the bell and then learning how to ring in sequence with other people.

The heaviest bell at All Saints weighed just under a ton and there was a skill to holding the rope so that the bell swung on its axle through 360 degrees.

Mary Brown, 66, of Theaker Avenue, returned to bell ringing about two years ago after having rung as a teenager.

She said: “I was about 13 when I first started because some friends who were members of the the Young People’s Association were doing it.”

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Mary is a church warden at St George’s in Gainsborough, but when the town’s churches amalgamated she found herself back at All Saints and ringing the bells once more.

“I still knew how to handle a bell, I’ve never forgotten how to ring it, but I couldn’t remember methods so I had to relearn that side of it.”

She is treasurer of West Lindsey Bell Ringers branch and rings at other churches around the district.

Bell ringing is a family affair for Janet Clarke, 59, of Laburnum Avenue, who rings at All Saints alongside her husband Stephen, 59, and daughter Alison Elwess, 32.

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Janet began ringing as a 16-year-old in her native Suffolk and when she and Stephen moved to Gainsborough 30 years ago they both joined the All Saints team.

She said: “I enjoy it because you never reach the end, there is always something new to learn and do. It’s about being part of a team and working with others.”

Stephen is a doctor and is an associate member of the Guild of Medical Ringers.

“We have rung peals and quarter peals for family celebrations,” said Janet.

For more information call Robin on 01427 612158.

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