28th February 2017

17,280 London Surprise Major

Article from the Ringing World 2005 p469.

Over the last 18 months there has been a massive restoration project at Christ Church, Spitalfields and, to celebrate its completion, the clergy and local community enthusiastically embraced the idea of a long length peal. The peal was also seen as an appropriate event to associate with Eric Elstob, who had been initially Treasurer, then Chairman and finally President of The Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields charity. Unfortunately, Eric died in 2003, but he perhaps contributed more to the restoration than any other individual. Alan Regin worked tirelessly to ensure that everybody was aware of what the long peal would entail and, as a result, it provided very positive publicity. Only one complaint was received from somebody who felt that the bells were not being rung loudly enough! Whilst the bulk of the restoration effort has been directed at the fabric and interior of the church, significant work has also been done in the tower. Hayward Mills Associates re- bushed four clappers, replaced a pulley and a slider runner, whilst a dedicated team re-painted the frame and added appropriate sound control. As a result the bells go like tops, sound majestic and inspire ringers to do them justice. We rang a practice peal a few days before the long length in order to be familiar with the unusual calls. Whilst half-lead singles aren’t likely to become standard fare in London, they didn’t present a problem and the record peal was rung confidently throughout. The composition was a regular 5-part, with each part taking between 2h 15m and 2h 23m. Most of the band didn’t bother to eat or drink, seemingly sustained by the rhythm, coursing music and roll-ups that are the hallmark of London Major. The last couple of hours were virtually without blemish and it almost seemed a pity to stop! After the peal was over, we were presented with a large bottle of champagne by the Rector, the Reverend Andy Rider. The following morning he announced our success to the congregation, and the ringers received a prolonged round of applause. Several parishioners requested more information from Alan Regin and two of them said that they had prayed for us during the day. That is what Christ Church is all about, as evidenced in the BBC Songs of Praise programme televised that evening. 

So, is this just another esoteric achievement? Well, yes and no. Opinions differ about the merits of long peals, but it seems hard to find fault with the notion of ringers blending their collective ambition with a significant church celebration. That it also raised the awareness of bells in the community without causing a public nuisance is testimony to forward planning and preparation, something not always associated with peal ringing in general. The parishioners at Spitalfields believe that their church is a special place that has been significantly enhanced by a physical and spiritual regeneration. This peal simply adds a little more to their justifiable pride. I would like to thank everybody who played a part in this peal; particularly Alan Regin in his role as local co-ordinator, those who spent hours in the belfry refurbishing the fittings and frame, and Jo Dorling for marshalling the umpires throughout the day.

Umpire’s Report 

Ringing commenced at 9.03am with a relatively brisk opening 9-lead block, but slowed thereafter to about 3h 20m pace for a normal length peal. There was some slight hesitancy as the band settled, but no errors required intervention by the conductor. Although early in the peal, it was clear that this band was in for the long haul. The first of the five part ends came up after 2h 18m and was greeted with smiles all round. The most obvious feature of the peal was the very accurate striking, which was sustained hour after hour. Occasional trips were normally self-corrected and we noted only one multi-blow blemish, in the middle of the fourth part, when the conductor had to guide somebody back from a state of torpor. A selection of our jottings serves to capture the sense of the occasion: “A pleasure to be able to listen and enjoy … very steady and accurate throughout … brilliant ringing, wonderful music … textbook stuff …” We also noted that one of the band had a packet of ‘Imodium’ available, and quite how he proposed to use it in case of emergency remains a mystery! Perhaps that’s just as well. Several of us chose to stay on and listen, once our session ended. Only lan complained that the umpire’s chair was uncomfortable, noting with irony that he felt worse after 90 minutes than the band appeared after 11 hours! London Major often proves elusive in normal peal lengths, and the method is renowned for catching even the most competent bands out. However, towards the end of this marathon effort, the ringing remained very solid. After nine hours the band looked somewhat jet-lagged, but the ringing they produced would be a prized entry in anyone’s peal book. The little bells executed their work with accuracy and panache, while the back bells produced a steady, metronomic rhythm. At the beginning of the last part the conductor uttered a few words of encouragement, and as the final courses were completed, the jet lag evaporated and smiles returned all round. The bells ran round at 8.38pm and we have no hesitation in recommending this peal as a worthy record. We checked all the calls, timed every 9-lead block and extend our congratulations to the band on their splendid achievement.

Composition Review 

Brian Price’s composition is based on a palindromic 9-lead block. A half lead single parts the tenors in the 3rd lead just before the point B falseness occurs and another restores them at the corresponding point in the 7th lead. Two normal bobs are also used. This device neatly replaces the 4 half leads containing the tenors-together falseness with 8 tenors-parted half leads that do not introduce further falseness. The 5-lead remnant of the tenors- together course includes all the leads with rollups; however the block is not ‘all-the- work’ and 7-8 omit one half lead each in every course. Using this calling, the 60 in-course tenors-together course heads yield a set of 60 mutually true blocks. The 42356 course end links them naturally into threes and 59 can easily be linked by Q-sets of normal bobs at W, M or H. Joining all 60 requires an additional device; Brian has used 6th’s place bobs reminiscent of the 5th’s place bobs in Shipway’s bobs-only peal of Grandsire Triples.

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